5.1 What is copyright?

Copyright is the exclusive right to reproduce and to protect from unlawful production certain types of creative works. It arises instantly on the creation of such works without any need for registration and is governed by the Copyright Act 1988.

Copyright subsists in original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films and broadcasts. "Original" does not mean new. It means that the work has been created without copying another work and it is therefore possible that two very similar works can acquire independent copyright.

5.2 Duration of copyright

Copyright subsists for a term of years before falling into the public domain. For literary, artistic and musical works the term is 70 years after the end of the year in which the author dies.

If the copyright belongs to the government or a corporate body the term will be 70 years after the end of the year in which the work was first published.

With regard to films and photographs, copyright protection is 50 years after the end of the year in which the work is first published. Copyright in sound recordings and broadcasts subsists for a term of 50 years after the end of the year in which the recording was first made or the broadcast first took place.

5.3 Administration of copyright

Copyright is administered by the Nigerian Copyright Council, a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Culture and Social Welfare. The Copyright Council is charged with responsibility for all copyright matters in Nigeria. This includes:

(a) enforcing copyright law;

(b) enlightening and informing the general public on matters relating to copyright;

(c) ensuring that those who use copyright material both in Nigeria and abroad pay the owners adequate royalties;

(d) representing the interests of all Nigerian artists in international copyright matters; and

(e) keeping a record of Nigerian authors.

5.4 Licensing schemes

In several areas of copyright (particularly in relation to sound recording and films) it is the practice of copyright owners to join together to form collecting societies which negotiate blanket licenses for the use of the works of their members and collect royalties on their behalf. This is convenient for both the copyright owner and for those requiring licenses to use such work. These collecting societies are registered and licensed by the Nigerian Copyright Council.

5.5 International Conventions

Nigerian is a signatory to the Berne Convention. This treaty provides that a work which receives copyright protection in a country which is a signatory to the convention will automatically secure copyright protection in all others.

5.6 Infringement

Copyright in a work is infringed whenever an unauthorised person:

(a) reproduces without the permission of the copyright owner any work in which copyright subsists;

(b) imports into Nigeria any counterfeit copy of a creative work;

(c) publicly exhibits infringing copies of works by way of trade; and

(d) permits the performance of a work in public where such performance constitutes an infringement of copyright.

5.7 Enforcement

Civil and/or criminal actions can be taken by the owner of copyright where his rights are infringed.

Civil infringement proceedings are commenced in the Federal High Court. If the injured party institutes a civil action he can claim damages, costs and injunctive relief. The plaintiff can also demand an account of the profits accruing from the sale of pirate copies. The court can order seizure of all copies of the counterfeit work, and any equipment used to produce it. Such material may be destroyed or surrendered to the copyright owner. Upon criminal prosecution any person who infringes copyright is liable to a term of imprisonment of up to 5 years and or a fine of =N=100.00 to =N=1,000.00 for every infringing copy.


Akinjide & Co. is a leading corporate law practice based in Lagos, Nigeria, with branch offices in Ikeja and Ibadan.

This guide on intellectual property in Nigeria has been produced by the intellectual property group of Akinjide & Co. and is intended to provide general guidance and information only. It is not a major work of reference and specific questions and enquiries should be referred to:

Stephen Kola - Balogun
Akinjide & Co.
10th Floor, Western House
8/10 Broad Street,
Lagos - Nigeria.
Tel:  234   1 263 5315
Fax: 234   1 264 5525.
E-mail:  Click Contact Link