In our world today where artistic works (films, music, plays, photographs, etc.) can be shared easily across various social media platforms and illegal websites, it is important for Nigerian artists to be knowledgeable on how they can rein in unauthorised appropriations and profit from their works reproduced, performed, and shared on various social media platforms and websites. Copyright has global significance, but its protective scope is territorial as the proper protection of copyright depends on how well a country can protect its creatives. Due to the shortcomings of the erstwhile Copyright Act of 1988, the Copyright Act of 2022 was introduced to address these deficiencies.
President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Copyright Act 2022 on 17th March 2023. This Act repeals the longstanding Copyright Act Cap C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 (i.e., the 1988 Copyright Act) which was not able to aptly meet the demands of copyrighted works of Nigerian artistes in the current digital age. Although the former law shares similarities with the new law, there are key differences between the two acts.
The objective of the Copyright Act of 2022 as stated in Section 1 of the Act itself are as follows:
“(a) protect the rights of authors to ensure just rewards and recognition for their intellectual efforts.
(b) provide appropriate limitations and exceptions to guarantee access to creative works.
(c) facilitate Nigeria’s compliance with obligations arising from relevant international copyright treaties and conventions.
(d) enhance the capacity of the Nigerian Copyright Commission for effective regulation, administration, and enforcement of the provisions of this Act.”
Below are key highlights of the Copyright Act of 2022 which further the above objectives as stated in the Act.
- The Act under Section 2(1)(d) replaces the term “cinematograph films” formerly used in the Copyright Act of 2004 with “audiovisual works”. With this important adjustment, online content creation is recognized as opposed to the old law.
- There is an entire portion of the Copyright Act 2022 dealing with performers’ rights. Performers are entitled to share in payments received by a party who arranges for the fixation of audio-visual works in respect of a broadcast to the public of the performers’ work.
- A laudable provision of the Act is special exceptions for blind or visually impaired persons. Copyrighted works can be reproduced in accessible formats for the benefit of this category of persons without breaching the provisions of the Act.
- In relation to Moral rights of a copyright holder to seek reliefs for infringement under the new Act, such moral rights are now transferrable upon the death of the copyright holder through testamentary dispositions or by operation of law.
- Under the Copyright Act, the owner of a copyright in respect of which copyright has been infringed, may issue a notice of such infringement to the relevant service provider requesting in writing for the service provider to take down or disable access to infringing content or links to such content. Simply put, when a copyright owner becomes aware of an infringement of a work by a website, streaming service, or social media platform, the rightsholder is to issue a notice of infringement to such service provider to take down such content. A service provider, upon receiving notice of infringement is expected to take down the infringing content 48 hours after the receipt of the notice in the event the subscriber is unable to provide a justification as to why the alleged offending material was uploaded.
- The Act further empowers the Nigerian Copyright Commission with powers to block sites which have online content that infringes Copyright.
- Fines and criminal liability have been increased under the Act in various sections. This is indeed laudable because it would aid in the deterrence of copyright infringement.
The Copyright Act seeks to protect Nigerian creatives in the modern world where the internet and various media platforms have enabled widespread reach far beyond an artist’s imagination. The new Copyright Act is therefore a positive development for the creative space in Nigeria especially as it considers online reproduction and republishing of copyrighted works. This progressive development of the legal and statutory framework for copyright administration in the country must continue to meet the demands of an ever-changing world impacted by technological advancements and as new media platforms and digital spaces are created.
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