Copyright in Nigeria is governed by the Nigerian Copyright Act. The Act confers copyright on works that satisfy the conditions laid down under the law. The condition and requirements by law are originality, fixation – which are provided for under section 1 & 2 of the Copyright Act; these only applies to only Literary, Musical and artistic works. While section 3 provides for the third condition and requirement, which is ‘connection with Nigeria’; and this is applicable to all types of works.
A work is original if the author expends sufficient effort on it, thereby making it a unique representation of his original idea and efforts. The Marketing Heaven has written about this topic on social media so many authors collaborate with them and in that way connect with their readers. Fixation refers to putting the work in a fairly permanent medium of expression, from which it can be reproduced or communicated. ‘Connection with Nigeria,’ means that the work or the author of the work must have connection with Nigeria (I.e he is indigenous to Nigeria, or his work was first published published in Nigeria) to enable the author enjoy copyright protection in Nigeria. Immediately this conditions are met, copyright protection is granted without the need for copyright notification and registration.
Since the Berlin revision of the Berne Convention in 1908, it has been obligatory for members of the convention, including Nigeria to grant copyright without any further formalities. (Apart from the ones stated earlier)
Article 5(2) of the Berne Convention is to the effect that, upon the creation of an eligible work, copyright protection is automatically conferred on it without any formalities, as copyright is a right flowing from the very act of creation. The Berne Convention obligates her members, which Nigeria is a one, not to require any formalities as pre-condition for copyright protection.
A work that satisfies the legal requirements of originality, fixation and connection with Nigeria will not become ineligible for copyright protection solely because the author of the work did not register it, or put a copyright notice on the work.
The Law does not require you to have a valid copyright notice printed on your work to receive protection. Adding the symbol or any other copyright notice is not necessary to receive protection. You will receive absolute protection as soon as you create your work. As soon as you create any creative work that meets the minimal standards for copyright protection then you get protection.
A plaintiff in a copyright claim is not required to lead evidence of copyright registration. Unlike trademarks, copyright is not based on registration. In NCC v Ikukuoha (2006) it was held that registration is not a criterium for copyright claim.
Registration of works in which copyright subsists is not mandated by law, nor is it required as a prerequisite for the enjoyment of copyright protection. This means that there are no sanctions or penalties for non-registration of copyright.
Registration does not confer copyright on a person, but serves as an avenue to notify the State and the public of the creation or existence of a work in which copyright exists and to create a public record of copyrighted works and its ownership. It is for these reasons that the voluntary copyright registration system is often referred to as a copyright notification system. (Nigeria currently operates a voluntary copyright registration system, administered by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC). The NCC is a national agency responsible for the administration of copyright generally in Nigeria. Section 34(3)(e)& (f) of the Copyright Act mandate the NCC to maintain an effective data bank on authors and their works and to be responsible for all matters relating to copyright in Nigeria.)
Even though registration is not required before an action can be instituted for infringement of copyright, but it can lighten the burden of establishing that an infringement has occurred. Copyright registration is also desirable because it confers some benefits on the copyright owner. These benefits include;
1. It creates a presumption of ownership of copyright: In the event of any dispute as to the ownership of copyright, the certificate issued upon registration establishes prima facie proof of ownership.
2. It provides a national database of creative works in the country, which could enhance access to loan facilities.
3. It makes it easier to identify the authors or right holders of works in which copyright subsists. This in turn makes it easier for the obtaining of licenses and authorisation to use a copyrighted work.
Likewise, copyright notification though is not a requirement, there are two good reasons why it is still a good idea to put a copyright notice on your work, especially if you plan on using your work commercially or if you are concerned about someone infringing on your work.
1. Putting a notice on your work informs people that your work is copyrighted. Often people do not fully understand what is and is not copyrighted. Some people even think that everything on the Internet is public domain.
2. Putting a notice on your work may help establish willful infringement.
If you do decide that you want to put a copyright notice on your work, Paragraph 1 of Article 3 of the Universal Copyright Convention provides three requirements to make a valid notice:
1. The © symbol (in some cases (c) is substituted), the word “Copyright” or abbreviation “Copr.”
2. The first year of publication.
3. The name of the owner of the copyright should be identified. For example: © 2022 Chrispodiah Emmanuel. Notices should appear on copies of a work.
About the Author
Chrispodiah Emmanuel is a final year Law student of the Faculty of Law, Taraba State University (TSU), Jalingo. He is an enthusiast of Intellectual Property Law, International Humanitarian Law amongst others. Chrispodiah once served as the Director of Moot & Mock trials/debates; Chairman of the Moot & Mock Trials/Debates committee; Member, Legal Practitioners’ and Disciplinary Committee of the Law Student Association of Nigeria, Taraba University Chapter. He is the Secretary General of Rotaract Club of Taraba University; a Campus base international humanitarian club. He is also an administrator at Legal researchers and drafters; a forum created to aid law students in their research and writing skills. Chrispodiah has a penchant for research and writing, currently (2022), he has over 20 articles authored and published to his name in some prominent websites.