Intellectual property (IP) is the area of law that borders on the protection of the intellectual assets of individuals. IP law consists of the following: copyright, trademark, patent, and industrial design.

In this article, we would be discussing what copyright is all about with a focus on the meaning and nature of the Copyright Act, conditions to fulfil for your work to enjoy copyright protection and other relevant information. The fruit of the intellect of the creative must be protected, and as noted by the court in Oladipo Yemitan v The Daily Times Nigeria [1980] F.H.C.R. 186 at 190, the right of a man to that which he had originally made, must be protected.

Meaning of Copyright

The Black’s Law Dictionary defines copyright as a proprietary right in an original work of authorship (such as literary, musical, artistic etc.) fixed in any tangible medium of expression, giving the holder the exclusive right to display, distribute, adapt, perform, and reproduce the work. It would mean then that a person has infringed on another’s copyright if he uses, copies, or distributes the copyrighted work without the authorization of the owner. The law that governs the administration of copyright in Nigeria is the Copyright Act and on their other hand, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) regulates and supervises copyrights in Nigeria.

It is a known fact that every country needs the creative ideas of its citizens to develop and grow. However, to avoid manipulation, unauthorized distribution and piracy, these ideas and works must be protected yet made accessible to the society. As emphasized in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, everyone has a right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author. Every person has the right to freely take part in the cultural life of the community, enjoy the arts and share in scientific advancement and its benefits. See S. 16 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966. Hence, the law of copyright places a thin line between the protection of the fruits of a person’s intellect and the society’s benefits and access to these works.

Let’s give a vivid and relatable explanation of what the law of copyright is about. Recall the incidence that happened between Poco Lee and Portable where the former was only featured in the Zazu song and he went ahead to upload the song on Audiomack under his name (Poco Lee) thus claiming ownership of the song. This action of Poco Lee infringes the copyright of Portable who is the real owner of the song and if Portable decides to institute an action in court against Poco Lee, the court may award damages to Portable and give an order of injunction against Poco Lee refraining him from claiming ownership of the Zazu song. Also, recall the case between Sabinus and UAC foods where the latter allegedly used the former’s cartooned image in an advert for the Gala sausage. All these cases fall within the purview of copyright.

The Copyright Act

The 2004 Copyright Act is the primary law that governs and protects copyright in Nigeria, as we have earlier stated. The Act seeks to protect the works of creatives, what amounts to infringement and remedies for infringement, and procedure for the transfer of copyright in Nigeria.
Not all works can be copyrighted, however, in the light of S 1(1) Copyright Act, the following works can be copyrighted:

  1. Literary works
  2. Musical works
  3. Artistic works
  4. Cinematographic films
  5. Sound recordings
  6. Broadcast

No “work” will therefore be capable of being copyrighted unless it falls within the above classification.

Conditions for your Work to be Copyrighted as a Creative

As a creative, certain requirements must be met for your work to be copyrighted under the Act. First, it must be one of the works listed in S.1(1) of the Act. Then, there must be originality and fixation.

1. Originality
By virtue of *S. 1(2)(a) of the Copyright Act, for copyright to subsist in a literary, musical, or artistic work, sufficient effort must have been expended to make the work possess an original character. Hence, originality is a fundamental requirement if your work must be copyrighted.
However, originality in this context does not mean your work must be new, in the sense that such work has never been seen before. As posited in University of London Press v. University Tutorial Press [1916] 2 Ch 601, the work must not be copied from another work, but it should originate from the author. As noted in ICIC v. Ekko Delta (1977) FHC.L.R. 346, a copyist does not enjoy copyright.
For instance, if you are a photographer, the originality in your work, is the exercise of your judgement as to what to photograph, how the scene is arranged including lighting, props etc., and other exercise of judgement, skill, or labor. In Peter Obe v Grapevine Communicators Ltd 40 NIPJD [FHC 1997], the plaintiff, a professional photographer was held to have copyright in his photographic works, consisting of the photographs he took during the civil war.
In other words, an original work fulfils the requirement of independent creation and creativity. Whether or not the level of skill, labor or effort expended by the author suffices to qualify the work as an original work which can be protected by copyright is a question of degree which is determined by the facts of each case.

2. Fixation
This simply means that the ideas to be copyrighted must be expressed. S. 1(2)(b) of the Act requires your work to be fixed in a definite medium of expression presently known or to be developed in the future which can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated either directly or with the aid of any machine or device before it can be copyrighted.
It is settled law that no one can claim exclusive rights to an idea; as long as it remains an idea in your mind, you have no right to claim it as yours. This is because ideas are public and can freely be used for the creation of intellectual assets by members of the public. Copyright, however, protects the definite expression of ideas. In Yeni Anikulapo Kuti &Ors v. T. M. Iseli & Ors [2003-2007] 5 I.P.L.R. 53-73], it was held that the written lyrics, as well as the tapes containing the yet-to-be-published music, satisfactorily reduced the work into a permanent form from which it could be perceived, within the meaning of S.1(2)(b) of the Act.

Why should Creatives Copyright their Works?
  1. To Protect your Work
    As a creative, you have put a lot of effort into your work, and it would be very unfair for another person to copy or use your work without your permission. This is the sole aim of copyright. It gives your work legal backing so that unauthorized people would not be able to use your work. Due to this protection, the value of your work is preserved, and you can sell it properly and/or get the credit for it.
  2. To Preserve your Rights as a Creative
    As a creative, you have full rights to your work. These rights include your economic and moral rights (as discussed in the previous article). In essence, copyright enables you to enjoy the right to be acknowledged in any use made of your work and prevents derogatory use which may include mutilation, alteration etc. You would also enjoy your right to earn money when your work is commercially used by another.
  3. Claim for Damages in Cases of Infringement
    Where someone has infringed your copyright in line with S. 16 of the Copyright Act, you have the right to bring an action in court as the owner of the work. Hence, you are entitled to damages as monetary compensation for the financial losses you have incurred due to the infringement of your copyright. Other remedies for copyright infringement include order of injunction, order of inspection and seizure, order to render account of profit made from the illegal usage of the work, etc.

Under the Nigerian Copyright Act, a work must fall into one of the six categories of eligible works listed in Section 1 of the Act which includes Artistic works, Cinematographic films, Literary works, Musical works, Broadcast, and Sound recordings. However, the conditions that must be fulfilled before a work can be copyrighted are originality and fixation. As a creative, copyrighting your work would ensure that your work is protected by law, your rights are preserved, and you are entitled to relief when infringement arises.
We hope this article has enlightened you on what copyright is about and why you should take a step further to protect your work. Should you require help in copyrighting your work, click here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: