The Role Of Copyright In Our Society

Asare Bediako & Co


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According to P. Goldstein in his write-up on Copyright, it is a term used to describe the area of intellectual property law that regulates the creation and use that is made of a range of cultural goods
Ghana Intellectual Property
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According to P. Goldstein in his write-up on Copyright, it is a term used to describe the area of intellectual property law that regulates the creation and use that is made of a range of cultural goods such as books, songs, films and computer programs. These are considered intangible property and are distinctive because they arise automatically for the benefit of the owner. There are rights that are specifically conferred on the owner, like the right to copy the work or even perform them in public. Copyright law is viewed in two ways; as an unnecessary restriction on the ability to express oneself or a means to protect investment and labour.


According to section 1 of the Copy Right Act, the types of works that are protected by copyright are literary works, artistic works, musical works, sound recordings, audiovisual works, choreographic works, derivative works, computer software or programmes.


Copyright shall not extend to ideas, concepts, procedures, methods or other things of a similar nature.1


The owner of any work protected by copyright may decide to exploit the work by entering into a number of contracts for economic gain. This is the prerogative of only the copyright owner and no one else thereby giving the owner the exclusivity he or she may desire to benefit from his or her intellectual efforts.

In so doing, such owner may decide to grant a licence to another person ("licencee") permitting this other person to carry out or perform certain acts relating to the work. This may be in the form of making copies, printing, publishing, performing, filming or recording the work. In spite of this, the copyright owner continues to retain ownership of the copyright.

The acts to be performed by the licencee will depend on the terms of the contract and in certain cases, the licencee may be permitted to grant a sub-licence to others.

In alternative situations, the copyright owner is at liberty to assign ownership in the copyright to another person causing the owner to relinquish his/her economic rights.

Whatever, the case may be, all persons are to respect the author's moral rights in the work.


The rights of the copyright owner are put under separate categories, being Economic Rights and Moral Rights. These rights are covered by sections 5 & 6 of the Copyright Act, 2005 respectively.

Economic rights: The author of a protected copyright work has the exclusive economic right in respect of the work to do or authorize the doing of any of the following:

  1. The reproduction of the work in any manner or form,
  2. The translation, adaptation, arrangement or any other transformation of the work,
  3. The public performance, broadcasting or communication of the work to the public,
  4. The distribution to the public of originals or copies of the work by way of first sales or any other first transfer of ownership
  5. The commercial rental to the public of originals or copies of the work

Moral rights: In addition to the economic rights referred to in section 5, the author of protected copyright work has the sole moral right:

  1. to claim authorship of the work and in particular to demand that the name or pseudonym of the author be mentioned when any of the acts referred to in section 5 are done in relation to the work, and
  2. to object to and seek relief in connection with a distortion, mutilation or any other modification of the work where that act would be or is prejudicial to the reputation of the author or where the work is discredited by the act.


  1. Duration of copyright in works of individuals: The Economic rights of an author are protected during the life of the author and seventy years after the death of the author. Where a work is jointly authored, the economic rights of the authors are protected during the life of the last surviving author and seventy years after the death of that author.
  1. Duration of copyright in works of bodies corporate: Where the copyright in a work is owned by a public corporation or other body corporate, the term of protection shall be seventy years from the date on which the work was made or first published, whichever date is the later.
  1. Duration of copyright in anonymous works: Where a work is published anonymously or under a pseudonym, the economic rights of the author are protected until the expiration of seventy years from the date on which the work was made, first made available to the public, or first published, whichever date is the later, but if the identity of the author is known or is no longer in doubt before the expiration of that period, the rights of the author shall be protected during the life of the author and seventy years after the death of the author.
  1. Duration of moral rights: The moral rights of authors exist in perpetuity and these rights are enforceable by the author, during the lifetime of the author, and after the author's death, by the author's successors whether or not the economic rights vested in the author under section 5 are still vested in the author or the successor in title of the author.


  1. To maintain a record of works.
  2. To publicise the rights of the owners.
  3. To give evidence of the ownership and authentication of intellectual property.

It is important to note that copyright protection of a work is not dependent on the registration of the work. The simple creation of work establishes copyright protection over such work.


The actions of a person is said to be an infringement where such person exercises the rights of the legitimate author of the copyright work without the permission of the copyright owner. There exist two forms of infringement; primary and secondary infringement.

Primary Infringement: This describes the activities of those involved in infringing the copyright owner's exclusive rights, moral and economic.

Economic infringement involves carrying out one of the acts under copyright protection without authorization of the owner.

Moral infringement is where the person has acquired the rights to use the work but acts contrary to the moral rights like failing to put the authors name on the book or a publisher making changes to a book. Plagiarism is another example where the work of the author is appropriated by another person who passes the work off has his or hers.

Secondary infringement: This describes the activities of accessories regardless of whether their involvement occurred before or after that act of infringement.


Infringement of copyrighted works is rampant especially in these days of technology. What remedies then are available to the owner of work do? The answer lies in section 47 & 48 of the Copyright Act.

The author could decide to institute an action against the infringer in the High Court for any of the following remedies:

  1. for an injunction to prevent the infringement or prohibit the continuation of the infringement,
  2. in respect of imported goods or goods ready for export, for an order requiring the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service to detain the goods, or
  3. for the recovery of damages for the infringement.

Should the owner prefer a settlement before commencing proceedings in the High Court, there is the option of attempting negotiation with the infringer. If that fails, the matter may be referred to the Copyright Administrator who shall mediate the dispute. If dissatisfied, a party may then choose to resort to the jurisdiction of the High Court.


Copyright protection is a topic not widely discussed or given its due recognition. A lot of authors are left in dark about their rights and remedies available to them


1. See s.2, Copyright Act, 2005

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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