Imagine walking into a bookstore and seeing the exact book you wrote being traded off as someone else’s or listening to a song and realizing that over sixty percent of the lyrics is from one of your songs or poems, maybe your most treasured song. Sometimes the whole piece is lifted without giving you credit for your work. I think the one that tops the list is seeing someone wear a design you labored over for a long time. At that point it becomes difficult to even attribute the authorship of that design to you. Many get selfish about their creative works. They like to protect what they have produced by their efforts and with good reason too. Are you one of them? One of those who have always wondered exactly how to protect their creative works and originality from seemingly inspired fans? Well, do not look too far because there are provisions of the Nigerian Law which will help give some clarity on how to protect your creative works.

Copyright which is an aspect of intellectual property rights is a major way of protecting your creative works. Copyright is that exclusive right given to the author or originator of a work over that work for a fixed period of time. The life span of a copyright over one’s creative works is dependent on the Copyright law in operation in each country. In Nigeria, the lifespan of one’s copyright over literary, musical or artistic works other than photographs is seventy years after the end of the year in which the author/owner dies. Where the author/owner is a body corporate or government, it is seventy years after the end of the year in which the work was first published. For cinematograph films and photographs, an owner/author’s lifespan lasts fifty years after the end of the year in which the work was first published. For sound recordings, copyright lasts fifty years after the end of the year in which the recording was first made. Then for broadcasts, copyright lasts fifty years after the end of the year in which the broadcasting first took place.

In so far as your work has been physically expressed, copyright helps protect them. Copyright protection arises automatically as soon as your work is created. You need not go through the hassle of registration of your work.

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The works covered by copyright in Nigeria are:

  • Literary works
  • Artistic works
  • Musical works
  • Cinematograph works
  • Sound recording
  • Broadcasts

In order for your creative works to be eligible for copyright, such work must have been produced using sufficient effort during its making to give it its originality. This means that you must show that you expended sufficient effort (culminating in originality) on your creative works while making them. Your work must also be expressed. That is, it must be fixed in a definite medium of expression; something that can be perceived, reproduced or communicated directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

But note that if at the time of making an artistic work you, as the author/owner intended that it should be used as a model to be multiplied by an industrial process, then the artistic work is not eligible for copyright.

Not only should your work be eligible for copyright, in order for it to be qualified, you (as the author or any of the authors where there is more than one author) must also be qualified. You must either be a citizen of Nigeria or be domiciled in Nigeria. In the case of a company, it must be a body corporate incorporated under Nigerian laws.

As the author of a creative work, you have exclusive rights to reproduce your work in any material form, you may also publish your work, distribute your work to the public for commercial purposes or even make an adaptation of your work. You also have the exclusive right to authorize those acts to be done. All of these may be done to the whole creative work or to a substantial part of it.

As the owner of a copyright you have the right to claim authorship of your work and that your authorship should be indicated when any of the aforementioned acts is done. But this does not apply when the work is incidentally or accidentally included when reporting current events though broadcasting.

Inasmuch as these rights abound, there are also exceptions to them. Some of these exceptions are to the effect that it is permitted for a person other than the owner/author of any of the works covered by copyright to do any of the acts tagged as the exclusive right of the owner/author, by way of fair dealing for research purposes, private use, criticism or review or reporting of current events. This is however subject to the condition that if the use is public, there should be an acknowledgement of the title of the work and its authorship except where the work is incidentally included in a broadcast. Also, the owner/author of the works covered by copyright has no right to control any act such as reproduction, distribution or publication of his work where it is done by way of parody or caricature.  Another exception is where a person reads or recites any reasonable extract from a published literary work in public or in a broadcast. This is permitted in so far as there is sufficient acknowledgement of its authorship and the reading or recitation is not for commercial purposes. These are some of the exceptions to copyright control by authors/owners of creative works.  

Where you notice that a person has infringed your copyright by doing any of the acts earlier mentioned or authorizing them to be done, then you may demand that the infringement stop immediately, or you may demand that the person who infringed on your copyright should deliver all of the works (both original and copies) and pay compensation for using the works. An agreement may also be entered with the person who infringed on the author’s work on how exactly to use such work in the future.

Resort may also be had to the Federal High Court of Nigeria where the person that infringes on the author’s copyright fails to abide by the demands of the author.

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