Copyright (or author’s right) is a legal term used to describe 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.
Overview of Copyright in Nigeria
Copyright is a branch of Intellectual property which is the product of the mind and has been described as man’s only genuine property worthy of protection.
Copyright is the right of a person to protect his ideas and information from commercial exploitation. Copinger and Skone say that: Copyright law is concerned with the negative right of preventing copying of physical materials existing in the field of literature and the arts.
According to the Black’s Law Dictionary, copyright is the right of literary property as recognized and sanctioned by positive law. An intangible incorporeal right granted by statute to the author or originator of certain literary or artistic productions whereby he is vested for a limited period, with the sole and exclusive privilege of multiplying copies of the same and publishing and selling them.
The above mentioned right which is known as ‘copyright’ can be “licensed, transferred and/or assigned by the author of the work”. This position has been adopted judicially in a host of cases including Corelli v Gray, Jerrold v Houston, and Rees v Melville where Lord MacCoughton defined copyright as ‘a negative right (because it restricts others from doing a particular act)’.
The Court in the case of held Morison Industries Plc v CPL Industries Ltd held:
A literary, musical or artistic work shall not be eligible for copyright unless- (a) sufficient effort has been expended on making the work to give it an original character; (b) the work has been fixed in any definite medium of expression now known or later to be developed from which it can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated either directly or with the aid of any machine or device.
In Nigeria under the Copyright Act, the term ‘copyright’ is not expressly defined, but on a broader perspective, the meaning of the term can be appreciated in the provisions of section 6 of the Copyright Act, which provides that: Copyright in Nigeria of an eligible work is the exclusive right to control, to do or authorise the doing of any of the acts restricted to the copyright owner.
The aforementioned definitions can be combined to best reflect the nature of copyrights. Thus, copyright is a form of protection afforded to the creators of creative works by state laws or international instruments, which in Nigerian law includes musical works, literary works, cinematograph films, aesthetic works, sound recordings, and broadcast. Both published and unpublished works of authors are covered under copyright protection.
The concept of copyright presently governed by the Copyright Act is sui generis The Act, however, merely defined ‘copyright’ as ‘Copyright under the Act.’ A closer examination of the Act’s length and breadth reveals that copyright is the exclusive right to control, perform, or authorize the performance of any of the acts confined to the copyright owner.
A literary, artistic, or musical work can only be printed, published, performed on film, or recorded if the author has the only legal right to do so. It is a legal right granted to an author, who can be a writer, composer, or designer, to print, publish, and sell copies of her original work for a set period of time.
Copyright protects the expression of an artistic idea that is fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as writing or printing on paper, painting on canvas, sculpting in stone, or recording on film or videotape, and that the idea in the artist’s or author’s mind must assume a physical form.
As a result of the foregoing, copyright can be viewed as a personal right of a tangible nature, once fixed in a definite medium of expression, vested in the author, holder, and/or owner (originator or creator), the exclusive right in relation to such eligible work, which right does not last in perpetuity.
Copyright is a legal right granted by a country’s law to the creator for the exclusive use and distribution of their work. This power is usually only granted for a certain period of time, and its exclusivity is not absolute, as there are limitations and exceptions.
Works that qualify for Copyright Protection
A work that qualifies for copyright protection does not receive it indefinitely. To put it another way, the author of such a work will not be able to enjoy copyright indefinitely. The right can only be exercised for a short amount of time. This right normally begins to run from the time the work was created, or in other situations, from the time it was made public.
Copyrights last during the author’s lifetime and not less than 50 years after his death, according to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. The Convention also sets protection periods for works whose length cannot be determined by the lifespan of a single human creator, such as cinematographic works or sound recordings. As a general rule, this Convention applies to countries that have ratified it.
Literary, musical, and creative works are protected for the term of the author’s life plus 70 years after the end of the year in which the author dies, or for 70 years after the end of the year in which the work was first published in the case of works created by government or a corporate body.
The term of the right for anonymous or pseudonymous works is 70 years from the end of the year in which the work was first published, provided that when the author is identified, the term of the right will run throughout the author’s life and for 70 years after the end of the year in which he died.
In the majority of countries, and according to the Berne Convention, copyright protection is obtained automatically without the need for registration or other formalities.
Most countries nonetheless have a system in place to allow for the voluntary registration of works. Such voluntary registration systems can help solve disputes over ownership or creation, as well as facilitate financial transactions, sales, and the assignment and/or transfer of rights.
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