Copyright is a species of property, that is, the owner has the various rights akin to tangible property. The rights the owner of a copyright owner has to depend solely on the type of work concerned. There are some rights given to the owners of creative works such as reproduction and exploitation rights, motion picture and broadcast rights. Others are translation, adaptation and exhibition rights. The author of copyright work enjoys these rights for the period of life and 70 years after the end of the first year of the death of the author,[1] if the work is a literature, musical and artistic work[2]. Where the work is cinematography films, sound recordings, and broadcast, it is 50 years after the first year that they were produced or broadcasted to the public. After the aforementioned years, the right of the owner of the work ceases and the work falls into the public domain. According to section 6(1)(a)(c), the copyright owner has an exclusive right to the following acts:


There are two types of right under copyright namely, “economic rights”, which allow the owner of some rights to derive financial reward from the use of his work. The second is, “moral rights”, which allow the author to take certain actions to preserve the personal link between him and the work.


Economic Rights


In the modern conception of property, works such as literary, musical, artistic, cinematograph film, sound recording, and broadcast are property and, therefore, deserve to be protected. They properly belong to the broad division of the institution of private property. By private property, it means property in which the proprietary interest is vested in an individual for his use and enjoyment. The owner of private property has the right to exclude anybody from the use and enjoyment of his property[3]. Economically, therefore, property means wealth, power, capital, office and so on. For example, an owner of a copyrightable literary work has wealth in the book he wrote. One of the cardinal objectives of copyright protection is to prevent unjust enrichment by one from the sweat of another. That is to say, copyright frowns at a freeloader. It encourages creativity, innovation, craftsmanship, originality, labor, and productivity.


The utmost aim of the copyright law then is to protect the property owner of a copyrighted work by seeing that his labor is not unjustifiably expropriated or reaped by people who are not the producers of such labor. The economic bases of the copyright law are making sure that people who are inventors secure the pride, reward, encouragement, and incentive for their labor. Thus, intellectual properties are primarily economic rights and in most cases, the right owner can get pecuniary compensation for breach of his rights, though he will also want to stop anyone else from cashing in on these rights and making money which should lawfully be his. To exploit the subject matter of the owner’s copyright, patent or trademark without the owner’s authority is an infringement and the owner can enforce such right through civil proceedings. The right of a copyright owner is deemed to be infringed by any person, who, without the license or authorization of the owner of the copyright, does any of the acts contained in section 15(1) of the Copyright Act, except as provided in section 15(2)

Under Nigerian laws, a copyright owner in a work can use the law to stop anyone else from stealing the fruit of his intellectual labor by copying the work, publishing it, selling or importing unauthorized copies, or (in certain cases) hiring it out. This also applies to a translation or adaptation of the work. Modern technology as provided in computer programs, videos and sound recordings are profitable targets for the copyright pirates. In addition, technical means of copying, for example, photocopier, scanner, duplicating machines, printers, and others have increased pirates activities considerably. Infringement, which is the denial of the owner’s right of economic benefit does not always have to be for commercial purpose. Even private copying will normally be infringement unless it falls within certain specific exemptions. Unauthorized recording of concerts (bootlegging) can be commercially lucrative for the bootlegger but will cause loss of sales of the performer’s authorized tapes.

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Private and personal confidence may not be of economic value, but revealing them may cause embarrassment to the owner. The sufferer should be able to obtain pecuniary compensation.





[1] Asein, J.O. op cit.

[2] ibid

[3] Copyright Law in Nigeria p.76

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