Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect. It refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Simply put, it is property created by the human intellect.
When a business or an individual has an idea that they want to protect from being used by others without their permission, it is best to seek legal protection of that intellectual property. The most well-known types of Intellectual Property are: Copyrights, Patents and Trademarks.
Copyright refers to the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works. Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings. Copyright protections are automatic; once you create something, it is yours. However, if your rights under copyright protections are infringed and you wish to file a lawsuit, then registration of your copyright will be necessary. The following are eligible for copyright protection:
- Literary work
- Artistic work
- Cinematographic work
- Audio visual work
- Sound recording
- Program carrying signals
For a copyright to be eligible for protection, it must be:
1. Sufficiently Original: The work sought to be protected must originate from the author, not copied. It must be novel.
2. Expression: The work sought to be protected must be in an expressed form – in writing, painting, etc. You can’t have copyright protection over something in your head. Copyright protects an expressed idea, not the idea itself.
In Nigeria, copyright is governed by the Copyright Act 2004 and the agency saddled with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of the Act is the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC). The Act makes provisions for the protection, transfer, infringement, and remedies for infringement of copyrights in Nigeria.
ASSIGNMENT AND LICENCING OF COPYRIGHT
Section 10 of the Copyright Act makes provision for assignment and licensing of Copyright in Nigeria. Under the section, copyright can be transmitted from its creator to another person by
- Testamentary disposition (will) or
- Operation of law, as movable property.
An assignment or testamentary disposition of copyright may be limited so as to apply to only some of the acts which the owner of the copyright has the exclusive right to control, or to a party only of the period of the copyright, or to a specified country or other geographical area.
For an assignment of copyright and/or exclusive license to have effect as envisaged under the Act, it must be in writing. If however, it is a non-exclusive license, it may be written or oral, or may be inferred from conduct.
Where there is more than one owner of a copyright, an assignment or license granted by one copyright owner shall have effect as if granted by his co-owner also, and, subject to any contract between them, fees received by the grantors shall be divided equitably between all the co-owners.
REGISTRATION OF COPYRIGHT
While registration of Copyright is not a prerequisite for protection, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) has established a voluntary copyright registration scheme to enable authors and right owners notify the Commission of the existence of a work. Registered Copyright with the NCC protects Authors from Infringements.
The application for Copyright is submitted to the office of the Commission accompanied by the prescribed fees, a completed registration form, and copies of the work to be copyrighted.
DURATION OF COPYRIGHT PROTECTION
The author of a work does not own his Copyright indefinitely. The author of a literary, artistic or musical work enjoys copyright throughout his lifetime and for 70 years after his death.
In the case of films, sound recordings, performances etc., the owner enjoys Copyright for 50 years from the time the work was first published. The work goes to the public domain when the term of protection expires and third parties are allowed free use of it.
INFRINGEMENT OF COPYRIGHT
Sections 14 and 15 make provision for Infringement of Copyright and Action’s for Infringement respectively. Where there is an infringement of copyright, the owner, assignee or an exclusive licensee of the copyright, as the case may be, can institute an action in the Federal High Court exercising jurisdiction in the place where the infringement occurred; and in any action for such infringement, the court may grant reliefs by way of damages, injunction, and accounts.
In conclusion, copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to make copies of a creative work, usually for a limited time. It’s important to understand that copyright law covers the “form of material expression,” not the actual concepts, ideas, techniques, or facts in a particular work. This is the reason behind why a work must be fixed in a tangible form in order to receive copyright protection.