Nigerian Music Copyright Laws: Balancing Artists' Rights With Digital Streaming Services

Harlem Solicitors


Harlem Solicitors
The Nigerian music industry has experienced exponential growth, largely fueled by digital technology.
Nigeria Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment
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The Nigerian music industry has experienced exponential growth, largely fueled by digital technology. This growth, while beneficial, has precipitated complex legal challenges, especially in copyright protection for artists and record labels, due to the relative ease of replication, manipulation, reproduction, and dissemination of copyrighted materials in digital formats within the digital space. As digital streaming services become the dominant medium for music consumption, the need to balance copyright protection with digital innovation becomes increasingly crucial.

This paper examines the interplay between music copyright laws in Nigeria and the burgeoning digital streaming landscape. It underscores the legal frameworks governing copyright protection for artists and analyzes how these laws adapt to or clash with the operational dynamics of digital streaming platforms. The discussion navigates through challenges, opportunities, and proposed reforms to ensure equitable rights for artists in the digital era.


Nigeria's copyright law is encapsulated in the Copyright Act of 2022 which repealed Copyright Act Cap C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. It provides the legal basis for copyright protection in the music industry. The Act ensures composers, lyricists, and performers have exclusive rights to their creations, including reproduction, performance, and distribution.

By virtue of section 2 of the Copyright Act of 2022, legal protection is provided for various forms of creative works, including music. However, the key provisions of the Copyright Act relevant to Music copyright in Nigeria are.

  1. Original Works: The Copyright Act protects original musical works1, which include compositions, lyrics, and arrangements created by Nigerian musicians.
  2. Ownership and Rights: The Act grants copyright protection to the creators of musical works, giving them exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and communicate their music to the public.2
  3. Duration of Protection: By virtue of section 19 of the Copyright Act of 2022, Copyright protection for musical works generally lasts for the lifetime of the creator and 70years after the end of the year in which the creator/author dies. On work that is eligible and is made by or under the direction or control of a government, an agency of government or a prescribed international body3, the protection is for 50 years after the end of the year in which the work was first made available to the public or 50 years after the work was created, if not made available to the public within that time.
  4. Registration: While registration of copyright is not mandatory in Nigeria, creators can voluntarily register their musical works with the Nigerian Copyright Commission to establish evidence of ownership4.
  5. Collective Management Organizations (CMOs): Section 88 of the Copyright Act of 2022, spells out the role of CMOs in administering and licensing the rights of music creators. These organizations, such as Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and Musical Copyright Society Nigeria (MCSN), help negotiate, grant copyright licenses, and distribute royalties to rights holders.
  6. Enforcement: The Act provides legal remedies for copyright infringement, including injunctions, damages, and seizure of infringing materials. Rights holders can enforce their rights through civil litigation or criminal prosecution.5 Where a creative discovers that an unauthorized party has infringed on their copyright by performing or authorizing any of the acts listed above, such creator may demand that the infringement cease immediately, or demand that the copyright infringer deliver all the works (original and copies) and pay compensation for using the works. An agreement on how to use the author's work in the future may also be reached with the person who infringed on it. If the individual who infringes on the author's copyright fails to comply with the author's demands, the author may seek redress in court.6
  7. Digital Environment: The Act addresses the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital environment, including provisions related to digital rights management (DRM), online infringement, and liability of internet service providers (SPs).
  8. International Treaties: Nigeria is a signatory to international treaties such as the Berne convention and the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which influence its copyright laws and enforcement practices.


Balancing music copyright protection with digital innovation in Nigeria involves implementing policies and practices that encourage innovation while safeguarding the rights of musicians. To navigate the complex relationship between artist rights and streaming services, several approaches are proposed:

  1. Strengthening copyright laws: Nigerian copyright laws provide legal protection to musicians, composers, and other creators by granting them exclusive rights to their works. This includes the right to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display their music. Digital streaming platforms must obtain proper licenses from rights holders to legally distribute their music online. Enforcing existing copyright laws through digital rights management (DRM) technologies and stricter penalties for copyright infringements as well as updating them to address digital challenges can provide better protection for musicians and their works. This includes legal remedies for copyright infringement, such as injunctions, damages, and seizure of infringing materials.
  2. Royalty Distribution: Digital streaming platforms generate revenue through subscription fees, advertising, and other sources. A portion of this revenue is allocated as royalties to rights holders based on factors such as the number of streams, geographic location, and subscription tier. Nigerian musicians benefit from these royalties when their music is streamed on these platforms. It is therefore important to implement clearer guidelines on royalty distribution mechanisms to ensure artists receive fair compensation. Also, it is important to encourage collective management to promote the role of collective management organizations (CMOs) in negotiating rights and royalties on behalf of artists with streaming platforms.
  3. Education and awareness: Educating musicians and the public about copyright laws and the importance of respecting intellectual property rights can foster a culture of compliance and respect for creators.
  4. Collaboration between stakeholders: Encouraging collaboration between musicians, digital platforms, policymakers, and copyright enforcement agencies can lead to the development of effective solutions that benefit all parties involved.
  5. Licensing agreements: Digital streaming platforms enter into licensing agreements with rights holders (such as musicians, record labels, and collecting societies) to stream their music on their platforms. These agreements specify the terms of use, including payment structures for royalties and usage rights. Establishing clear and fair licensing agreements between musicians and digital platforms can ensure that creators are properly compensated for the use of their music while allowing for digital innovation to flourish. It should also be noted that there are different categories of music licenses such as master or mechanical license, synchronization license, broadcast, or performance license, and print license.
  6. Technology solutions: Investing in technology solutions such as digital rights management (DRM) systems can help protect music copyrights in the digital environment.
  7. Support for local artists: Providing support and resources for local musicians to create and distribute their music can strengthen the music industry in Nigeria and reduce reliance on foreign content.

By implementing these strategies, Nigeria can strike a balance between music copyright protection and digital innovation, fostering a thriving music industry that benefits both creators and consumers.


The digital streaming landscape presents both challenges and opportunities for Nigerian musicians. While streaming platforms provide a global audience and new revenue streams, there are concerns about fair compensation, royalty collection issues, piracy, competition and exposure, copyright infringement, lack of education and Legal awareness, and the dominance of international platforms. Developing a robust legal framework, promoting local streaming platforms, and educating musicians about their rights can help address these challenges.

Digital streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and local contenders such as Boomplay have transformed music access in Nigeria. These platforms operate on a model that often sees artists compensated through royalty payments calculated by streams. However, this model has raised concerns regarding transparency, fair compensation, and the unauthorized use of musical works.


In the music industry, copyright infringement occurs when someone uses a song or a part of a song without obtaining permission from the copyright owner. This can include using a sample of a song, using a melody or a chord progression, or even using a similar rhythm7. In Nigeria, there are civil and criminal penalties for infringing a protected right in the entertainment sector. The copyright owners may submit a lawsuit in the federal district court where the infringement took place if they want to demand monetary damages, profits, legal costs, or an injunction. For copyright infringement, there are several remedies available8;

Injunctions: To stop continuing or future infringement, a copyright holder may obtain a temporary or permanent injunction. When a person's liability has been shown and there is a significant chance of continued violation, permanent injunctions are routinely issued9.
Confiscation and Destruction: During the course of the case, the courts may order the seizure of works that are being used in violation. As part of a final determination, the court may order the confiscated works to be destroyed or any other reasonable disposition of the infringing works10.
Damages: Before a final judgement, a copyright owner may elect to seek actual damages and profits from the offender.
Litigation Costs: The courts have the ability to allow any party to recover all litigation costs.
Criminal Penalties: Criminal prosecution may follow a copyright violation done with the intention of obtaining a competitive advantage or personal financial gain11.

Music copyright infringement or intellectual property abuse, in general, is not a Nigerian phenomenon; it is a crime that is frowned at all over the world. Copyright infringement dispute may also be settled out of court through any form of dispute resolutions consented to by both parties.12 It is important for musicians and other rights holders to familiarize themselves with the Copyright Act and seek legal advice to protect their intellectual property rights effectively. Additionally, periodic updates and amendments to the Act may occur, so staying informed about changes in the legal framework is crucial.

Balancing artist rights with the operations of digital streaming services in Nigeria necessitates a multifaceted approach involving legal reform, industry cooperation, and education. By aligning Nigeria's copyright laws with the realities of the digital age, the country can safeguard artists' rights while fostering the growth of a vibrant and sustainable digital music industry.


1 Section 2(2)(a) of the Copyright Act of 2022.

2 See section 9-14 of the Copyright Act of 2022.

3 Section 7 of the Copyright Act of 2022.

4 See section 87(4) of the Copyright Act of 2022.

5 See sections 37, 38 and 44 of the Copyright Act of 2022.

6 Adegbite, Aderonke and Oyekanmi, Olorunfemi Adewale, Legal Framework for Music Licensing and Protection of Creatives in the Nigerian Music Industry (December 12,2022). Available at SSRN: or accessed on the 20th of March, 2024.

7 Yellowbrick "Exploring Copyright Infringement in the Music Industry" published July 30, 2023 and accessed on the 23rd of March, 2024

8 Legal remedies for copyright infringement in Nigeria (2021) AhXqhP0HHeh9AhAQFnoECAsQAQ& ail.aspx%3Fg%3Dffc42333-ac14-4fd8-8c08 a05a9ffc4c4e&usg=AOvVaw1WoWxbxO2_dJQ9Qe3YWpwt accessed 25th March 2024

9 Pamela Samuelson, 'Withholding Injunctions in Copyright Cases: Impacts of eBay' william and mary law review 2022 (63) (3).

10 Adegbite, Aderonke and Oyekanmi, Olorunfemi Adewale, Legal Framework for Music Licensing and Protection of Creatives in the Nigerian Music Industry (December 12,2022). Available at SSRN: or accessed on the 20th of March, 2024.

11 Ibid

12 Legal remedies for copyright infringement in Nigeria (2021) AhXqhP0HHeh9AhAQFnoECAsQAQ& ail.aspx%3Fg%3Dffc42333-ac14-4fd8-8c08 a05a9ffc4c4e&usg=AOvVaw1WoWxbxO2_dJQ9Qe3YWpwt accessed 25th of March 2024

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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