Who's Copying Who? Navigating Nigeria's Digital Entertainment Boom In Streaming And Copyright Laws

SimmonsCooper Partners


SimmonsCooper Partners (“SCP”) is a full service law firm in Nigeria with offices in Lagos and Abuja. SCP is one of Nigeria’s leading practices for transactions relating to all aspects of competition law, commercial litigation, regulatory compliance, project finance and energy. Our team has gained extensive experience in advising both local and international clients.
As Nigeria evolves into a digital entertainment powerhouse, the synergy between innovative streaming platforms and regulatory frameworks grows increasingly significant.
Nigeria Intellectual Property
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As Nigeria evolves into a digital entertainment powerhouse, the synergy between innovative streaming platforms and regulatory frameworks grows increasingly significant. With the Nigerian  Entertainment Industry projected to reach a remarkable $14.82 billion in revenue by 20251 ,  understanding and navigating the complexities of licensing and copyright laws not only prevents copyright infringement—but is a strategic advantage. This article explores this regulatory  landscape, examines its impact on the streaming market, and highlights the potential growth opportunities within Nigeria's digital media sector.

The Digital Revolution in Video Streaming

The rise of video streaming platforms has transformed how Nigerians consume film and movies,  providing unprecedented on-demand access to a diverse array of content. This shift, fueled by  increased internet penetration and widespread smartphone usage, has made streaming the  preferred entertainment choice for Nigeria's tech-savvy populace. However, it also highlights  significant challenges such as piracy, which not only reduces revenue but also infringes on the  rights of creators. Strengthening copyright protections is essential for sustaining industry growth  and bolstering Nigeria's economic and cultural landscape.

The Power of Music Licensing in Nigeria

Music licensing is crucial for artists seeking to monetize their work and gain exposure, playing a  significant role for businesses and platforms that feature musical content. Under copyright law,  creators hold exclusive rights that protect and encourage their creative efforts. For streaming  platforms, this means ensuring compliance with the legal framework of the relevant jurisdiction,  which involves obtaining rights directly from copyright holders or through proper licensing  agreements. This ensures operations within legal boundaries while offering a diverse array of  content. Music used in commercials, films, and public venues like restaurants must be appropriately licensed to not only avoid legal issues but also ensure that copyright owners are  fairly compensated, acknowledging the distinct elements of each musical piece.

Understanding Copyright

Copyright is a form of intellectual property that grants creators of original works or any other  authorized holder(s) exclusive rights to their works, allowing them to control how their creations  are used, reproduced, and/or distributed. Essentially, when an individual develops a work/product  considered original and resulting from substantial mental effort, this product becomes intellectual  property that must be safeguarded against unauthorized usage, copying or reproduction. Works  are deemed original when they are independently created by a human author and exhibit a  minimal level of creativity. Independent creation means that the work is created by the author  without copying from others.2 This right is crucial because it ensures that creators/originators can  benefit financially and creatively from their work. Copyright applies to a wide range of creative  expressions, including musical works, films, audiovisual productions, sound recordings, and  broadcasts—provided these works involve original creative effort and are fixed in a tangible  medium of expression.3 This means the creation must be stored in a form that can be physically  perceived, whether immediately or with the aid of a machine or device.

Unauthorized use, distribution, or transmission of copyrighted material is illegal. Video-On-Demand (VOD) platforms must secure permissions through specific contracts. These include  Digital Exploitation Agreements (DEAs), which allow them to legally share digital content, and Film  Distribution Agreements (FDAs), which give them the rights to distribute films.

Why is Copyright Important?

Copyright is not merely a set of legal restrictions but a fundamental aspect of cultural and  economic development. It encourages creativity and innovation by ensuring that creators can  profit from their original works without the fear of unauthorized use or theft. This protection is vital for the growth of industries like music, film, and digital media, where creators' rights can  often be easily infringed upon.

For the entertainment industry, particularly in a booming market like Nigeria's, robust copyright  enforcement can:

  • Stimulate Economic Growth: By protecting creators' rights, copyright enforcement helps  fuel the industry's economy, creating jobs and promoting investment.
  • Enhance Cultural Influence and Export: Copyright protection ensures that cultural  expressions are preserved and promoted, both domestically and internationally.
  • Drive Technological Innovation: Strong copyright laws encourage the development of new  technologies for content creation, distribution, and protection.

Furthermore, understanding and navigating copyright compliance is not just about adhering to  the law; it's a strategic advantage that can lead to substantial business growth and sustainability  in the competitive digital landscape.

Who Manages Copyright?

In Nigeria, the oversight of copyright is managed by several key regulatory bodies, each tasked  with specific roles to ensure that copyrights are respected and enforced:

  • National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB): This board is responsible for overseeing  the production and distribution of films and videos, ensuring they meet national standards.
  • Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC): The NBC regulates the broadcasting industry,  ensuring that all broadcasting entities comply with established standards.
  • Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC): The NCC enforces copyright laws and protects the  rights of creators, ensuring they receive fair compensation and recognition for their work.
  • National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA): NITDA oversees internet  practices and data protection, crucial for platforms that stream digital content.
  • Performing Musicians Employers' Association of Nigeria (PMAN): PMAN advocates for the  rights of musicians and performers, focusing particularly on issues related to copyright in  music.

Legal Precedents Shaping Copyright and Licensing Regulations

The impact of case law on the development of regulations surrounding copyright and licensing  cannot be overstated. Legal precedents provide critical insights and set benchmarks for the  application of laws within the media and entertainment industries. Two key cases illustrate how  judicial decisions influence the operational landscape for streaming services and other media  enterprises. The first case, Multichoice (Nig) Ltd v. MCSN LTD/GTE, 4 involved Multichoice  contesting royalty demands made by MCSN. Multichoice argued that only officially licensed  organizations should be entitled to collect royalties. The Court of Appeal's decision brought clarity  to this issue, affirming that only licensed collecting societies and exclusive licensees have the  authority to demand and receive royalties. This ruling has become crucial for understanding the  boundaries within which streaming services must operate and underscores the importance of  maintaining proper licensing statuses.

Another significant case, Adeokin Records & Anor v. Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria  (Ltd/Gte), 5 dealt with issues of copyright ownership and infringement. In this instance, the Court  of Appeal overturned a lower court's ruling, thereby affirming the rights of the plaintiff as both  the owner and exclusive licensee. This decision emphasizes the necessity of securing proper  licensing agreements to protect copyrights effectively and prevent legal disputes. It also highlights  the complexities of compliance within the rapidly evolving media landscape, serving as a stark  reminder of the legal intricacies' businesses must navigate.

Adapting to Global Changes in Digital Media Laws

As digital media continues to evolve globally, Nigeria's entertainment industry must prepare for  significant changes that could reshape its regulatory and operational landscapes. With  international treaties and trade agreements increasingly focusing on digital rights management  and data privacy, Nigerian businesses need to anticipate shifts that could demand changes in local  laws and practices. For example, the European Union's Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act  may set precedents that influence Nigerian regulations, particularly concerning platform liabilities  and the handling of user data.

Furthermore, the global push towards stronger protection of intellectual property could lead to  tighter copyright enforcement internationally. Nigerian businesses, especially those in content production and distribution, should monitor these trends closely. By doing so, they can adapt  their strategies to ensure compliance and capitalize on new opportunities. For instance, enhanced  copyright laws could open up new markets for Nigerian digital content, provided businesses can  navigate the complexities of international copyright laws effectively.

Supporting Stakeholders Through Regulatory Insights

At SimmonsCooper Partners, we recognize the complexities of Nigeria's legal landscape in the  entertainment sector and are committed to supporting industry stakeholders. Our advisory  services provide essential knowledge and tools for navigating copyright and licensing intricacies.  As digital transformation continues to shape the entertainment industry, our guidance is crucial  for leaders to manage changes effectively and leverage legal frameworks for success. For detailed support or to learn more about how we can assist with your specific needs, please  contact Temi Koya at temi.koya@scp-law.com.


1 Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NECLive) Report, 2023, https://businessday.ng/news/article/nigerian entertainment-industry-estimated-to-generate-14-82b-by-2025-
report/#:~:text=However%2C%20today's%20landscape%2C%20shaped%20by,for%20the%20industry%20giants%2 C%20facilitated

2 In the case of Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service, the U.S. Supreme Court explained that the requirement of originality is not particularly stringent and is comprised of two elements: that the work be independently created by the author (as opposed to copied from other works) and that it possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. A work satisfies the "independent creation" element so long as it was not literally copied from another, even if it is fortuitously identical to an existing work.

3 Section 2, Copyright Act 2022

4 (2020) 13 NWLR (PT. 1742) CA 415

5 Legalpedia Electronic Citation: LER [2018]SC.336/2008; Appeal No: SC.336/2008

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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