Nigeria: An Appraisal Of Copyright Infringement And Remedies Under Nigerian Law

Under Nigerian Copyright Act, CAP C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, original literary, musical and artistic works, cinematography films, sound recordings and broadcast (“the work“) are eligible for copyright. Copyrights are conferred on works whose author or in the case of a work of a joint authorship, any of the author is a citizen of Nigeria or domiciled in Nigeria or a body corporate incorporated under the laws of Nigeria.

Copyrights are also conferred on works arising from international agreements where at the date of first publication, one of the authors is a Nigerian citizen or domiciled in Nigeria; or published in a country that is a party to an obligation in a treaty or agreement in which Nigeria is a party as well as works published by United Nations Organizations or any of its specialized agencies, African Union and the Economic Communities of West African States.

The effect of this is that where sufficient effort has been expended on making the work to give it an original character, it becomes the sole property of the Owner. It is only the Owner that can transmit the work by testamentary disposition or by operation of law. The Owner has an exclusive right over the work and it is unlawful for any other person to reproduce, publish, translate, perform in public, make, rent, lease, hire, broadcast, adapt or tamper with the work without the Owner’s licence or assignment.

The increased rate of unemployment in the last decade has been a blessing in disguise. This is because it has boosted the intellectual property and entertainment sector as more Nigerian youths have discovered their creative talents and are now earning a living by creating intellectual and artistic works. International trade between Nigeria and other countries has contributed to the influx of international artistic works into the Nigerian market. It is inevitable that Owners of these works will only get their due return if they share in proceeds or obtain a fair compensation for use of their works.

In order to have a stake, sell existing products and introduce new products into the Nigerian market, many businesses have created radio commercials, adverts and marketing jingles to attract consumers. Government and its agencies prefer to use musical and artistic works to pass their messages across to the citizens. Politicians are in the habit of using popular Nigerian songs to introduce their mass media campaign and announce their manifestos to the electorates. All these have resulted in massive use of works for commercial purpose or personal use, many times without the licence of their Owners.

Fortunately, Owners of works whose copyrights have been infringed upon may demand that the person infringing their copyrights stop the infringement, deliver all original and copies of the infringed work to them and pay compensation for use of their work. They may also request that the person infringing their work enter into an agreement with them for use of their work in future. If the person infringing the work ignores the Owner or fails to adequately compensate him for use of his work, the Owner may commence an action at the Federal High Court where the infringement occurred to seek damages for infringement of his copyrights and injunction restraining the person from continuing his acts of infringement.

Infringement of Copyright is rampant in Nigeria today because Owners of artistic and literary works are more interested in creating the works without ensuring that they reap maximum reward for their copyrights over the works. It is therefore important for Owners to duly register their works with the Nigerian Copyright Commission, seek adequate remuneration for use of their works and compensation for infringement of their copyrights. This will create more wealth for the Owners; increase confidence in the Nigerian’s intellectual property market and have a positive effect on the Nigerian economy.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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