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The law of copyright is one of the most important legislature provisions that affect the journalists. The knowledge of such a law by journalist, helps him/her to avoid making claims of ownership, of the creative works that are not rightly and originally his or hers. This unit, therefore, takes you, the reader, through the basic provisions of the law of copyright in Nigeria. How the law affects you, will be understood after you might have completed the study. best


On successful completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  1. Explain what copyright is 
  2. Describe who is entitled to copyright 
  3. Identify what is entitled to copyright 
  4.  List the conditions that govern copyright entitlement. 
  5. Identify situations in which copyright is infringed 
  6. Describe action for infringement 
  7.  Determine duration of copyright 


3.1 Copyright Law: What it Means

The law of intellectual property protects things, which are created by people’s skill, labour and investment of time and money. Parents protect scientific developments and trademarks prevent unfair advantage being taken of the goodwill of establishing businesses. The law of copyright protects two kinds of copyright in books script, etc. It also protects the investors who provide the technology necessary to produce broadcasts, films and records. Copyright is the exclusive right to use materials in certain ways. The law of copyright is important to journalists because it determines what they can quote or use in their reports. It is important to establish what rights a journalist, newspaper or television also has to prevent others from exploiting their own work and prevent other from taking the benefit of it.

The Nigerian copyright law was governed by the 1970 copyright Acts until was replaced by a new copyright Acts of 1988. Today governed by the copyright Acts, CAP 68 1990 laws. So the copyright it is law in Nigeria confers on the copyright owner /holder the right to control inter-alia the reproduction, production, publication, exclusive performance, broadcasting, adaptation and distribution of any of their literary, musical, graphic and architectural works in works in Nigeria. It is therefore the exclusive right of the owner of certain works, which qualify, for protection to reproduce, communicate to the public broadcast / translate, or adapt the whole work or a substantial part of the or work either in any other form, recognizably derived from the original.

The owner has a right to restrict others from using his work in any form without permission; unless such a user falls within certain recognized exception which amount to fair dealing, e.g. research, criticism review. Copyright however, does not extend to ideas. It is confined to and expression which are fixed in a definite / permanent medium, because copyright has been defined as a right which float in the air, only crystallize, clutch or fasten unto and protect any work that satisfies the to conditions for eligibility.

3.2 Who is Entitled to Copyright?

Under our law, certain categories of people are entitled to copyright. These include; the owner, the author, the assignee, the likeness and the government. The author of a work is the first owner of the copyright. He is the person who actually writes, compiles, composes or draws the work in question. Although the idea of the work may have subsisted by another. Where the work is that of a joint authorship. Then been both of them are at the same time entitled to copyright provided the conditions stipulated by law are fulfilled.

By Section 9 sub-section 2 of the Copyright Act of 1988, if the author of a work was in the employment of some other person under a contract of service, or apprenticeship, and the work was made in the course of his employment by that persons, he is nevertheless entitled to copyright as

the first owner of copyright. Where any work has been prepared, published or made by or under the direction or control of either the government, state authority or prescribed international authority, the copyright in the work belongs in the absence of any contrary agreement, with the author.

3.3 What is Entitled to Copyright?

Section1 of the Act stipulates the different kinds of works eligible for copyright. These are:-
i) Literary works
ii) Musical works
iii) Artistic works
iv) Cinematograph films
v) Sound recordings
vi) Broadcast.

3.4 Conditions for the Entitlement

By the Act, both published and unpublished literary, musical or artistic works are covered, but such works must first be:
i) Original and
ii) Fixed in a definite medium.

3.5 Infringement of Copyright

By Section 14 of the copyright act, copyright is infringed by any person who without the license or authorization of the owner of the copyright:
(a) Does or causes any other person to do an Act, the doing of which is controlled by copyright.
(b) Imports into Nigeria, otherwise than for his private or domestic use any articles under which infringement takes place under (a).
(c) Exhibits in public in respect of which copyright is infringed under (a).
(d) Distributes by way or trade, offers for sale, hire or otherwise, or for any purpose prejudicial to the owner of the copyright any article in respect of which copyright is infringed under (a)
(e) Makes or has in his possession, plates, master tapes, machines, or used for the purpose of making infringed copies of the work.
(f) Permits a place of public entertainment or of business to be used for a performance in the public of the work. Where the performance constitutes an infringement of the copyright in the work; unless the person permitting the place to be so used was not aware and had no reasonable grounds for suspecting that the performance would be an infringement of the copyright.
(g) Performed or causes to be performed for the purposes of trade or business or as supporting facility to a trade or business any work in which copyright subsists.

3.6 Action for Infringement

Section 15, sub-section 1 of the 1988 Copyright Act says “subject to this Act, infringement of copyright shall be actionable at the suit of owner, assignee or an examine licensee of the copyright as the case may the be in the Federal High court, exercising jurisdiction in the place where the infringement occurred. And in any action for such an infringement, all such relief by way of damages, injunction, accounts or otherwise shall be available to the plaintiff as is available in any corresponding proceedings in respect of infringements of other proprietary.

3.7 Duration of Copyright

Literary, musical or artistic works other than photographs last for 70 years after the end of the year the author dies and if the author was government or body corporate then it is 70 years after the end of the year, which the work was first published. For cinematograph films and photographs, it lasts for 50 years after the end of the year the work was first published. For sound recordings, the duration is 10 years after the end of the year the recording was first made. For broadcast, it is 50 years after the end of the broadcast first took place. With regards to Performers rights, it is 50 year the years after the end of the year from which the performance first took place.

A reported case on Civil Remedies (as opposed to Criminal Remedies), a civil course of action on infringement of copyright arose in a Nigerian case named, Plateau Publishing Co. & Others Vs. Adophy Reported in 1986 for Nigerian Weekly Law Reports, Parts 33 & 34. page 205. In

this case which was finally decided by the Supreme Courts, originated from the Federal High Court in Sokoto and was equally heard by the Court of Appeal. The Plaintiff/Respondent (meaning the plaintiff was at the lower court while the defendant lost at the lower court) in an action filed at the Federal High Court Sokoto, holden at Jos, claimed against the defendants N200.000 being damages for the infringement of his copyright and N50,000 as special damages for the same infringement of copyrights. He also claimed an account of all profits made in the publication of the plaintiff’s work and a perpetual injunction against the defendants from any further sale use or dealings in the plaintiff’s work. The work which was allegedly infringed in an article titled “After Tarka, what Next”. Special Tribute”; written by the plaintiff. The plaintiff alleged that he sent the article to the first appellant Plateau Publishing Co. for publication, but it was not published. The plaintiff again alleged that the same article was subsequently published by the first appellant under a different name of one Ymasin as the author and without any license or authority from him at all. The said Ymasin was sued as the Third Defendant, the publication was in the Sunday Standard of 4th May, 1980, and was headed “Lessons from Tancaism: A Tribute Feature from Ymasin”. So the defendants were sued jointly by the plaintiff/respondent. The first Appellant, Plateau Publishing Company Ltd. Pleaded in the statements of Defense that the publication was not a reproduction of the article written by the plaintiff and that the publication was not the work of the plaintiff, and that they did not publish the plaintiff’s work. At the trial the first Appellant, being the Plateau Publication Company, led evidence to show that at the time of the publication of the said article, they did not know that copyright in the article existed in the plaintiff/respondent. They sought refuge under Section 12 of the Copyright Act 1970.

The trial Court found the plaintiff guilty, awarded him N25,000 damages and N10,000 as additional damages. The perpetual injunction sought was also granted. On Appeal, the award of additional damage of N10,000 was set aside, the Court of Appeal did not interfere with the award of N25,000 damages. On further Appeal to the Supreme Court, it was held unanimously dismissing the Appeal among others that the relief available to the owner of the copyright for an infringement of the

Copyright under Section 12 of the Copyright Act 1970, is not damages but an account of profits in respect of the infringement whether any other relief is granted under the Section or not.

Self Assessment Exercise 5.1

  1. What are the two fundamental reasons that qualifies a work that exclusive right not open to others?
  2. What are the different kinds of works covered by the copyright law?


The journalist must be creative in his writing and avoid contravening the copyright law as this can affect his entire career.


In this unit, you have learnt:
• That copyright protects intellectual works which time and money must have been made.
• That originality of the creative work and, the fact that it is expressed in a recognizable and validated medium of expression like article, drama etc.
• That copyrights lost of creative works such as: literary, musical, artistic, cinema films, sound recording and broadcast programmes.
• That for a number of reasons, copyright is infringed when a person (like the journalists) uses someone else’ work without the authorization of the owner.
• Copyright of any work has an expiration date.


Why does and should copyright matters concern the journalist? Write a page, typewritten or, typeset answer.


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