THE LAW AND PRACTICE OF COPYRIGHT IN NIGERIA

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THE LAW AND PRACTICE OF COPYRIGHT IN NIGERIA

Abstract:

Emerging as one of the branches of property law, Copyright is founded upon the capitalist principle of private proprietary right exercisable within and outside the limitations of political, economic and cultural boundaries. It is one of the international intangible rights secured by law. It subsists even while the owners are asleep and continues to be upheld even when they have long been dead. In Nigeria, among many jurisdictions of the world, the works which now attract protection under the law of copyright are works of human minds and hands. Thus, our natural endowments as found in either liquid or solid minerals, desirable as they are, do not enjoy copyright. But yet, copyright is a legal system designed to protect creations in their material forms. This is why a distinction has to be drawn early enough between form and substance. Mainly, in copyright, the Law demarcates ideas from its field of application and seeks only to protect the form through which these ideas are given structure and expression. On the basis of that principle, copyright protects the idea from the moment it is reduced to a tangible form. This distinction is one of the features of copyright which often blindfolds many, nay Lawyers, from understanding the concept. This is compounded by the theories of creator’s benefits as may be opposed to or be reconciled with that of the public interests among which he is also a member. In the Nigerian context, the scope of human activities enjoying copyright and related neighbouring rights has widened. Almost every imaginary efforts of man (nay woman) at making the world a better place – be it In aural, sight, touch and smell – have attracted the force of law at preservation, compensation and enforcement. Thus, works of art and literature, music, broadcasting, film, etc, in their sanctity, and with their various adaptations now enjoy legal protection. And, in some works, this protection subsits well after their authors may have died. The Nigerian legal jurisprudence in this area now appears to-be running ahead of practical realities, not as a result of our uncreativity but due to our ignorance and lethargy. Following closely behind the heels of this works-categorization, we also consider the elements occasioning infringement of copyright. They at first appear highly monopolistic if not absolute in nature. However, going down the legal lane, the law conversely created a variety of exceptions and exemptions which together water-down the strict liability nature of copyright. In fact, under the current Nigerian copyright legislation, whatever has been assured the copyright owner soon appears to evaporate through the basket-like instruments of copyright enforcement. From a cursory study of copyright at the international scene, this research discovered a seemingly inexhaustible rich well of topical issues. The universal nature of works of human mind and their dissemination has inevitably led to the conclusion of international conventions which allow foreigners to benefit from the protection afforded to nationals of each other’s country. Also, by the working of these conventions, models of uniform legislations and practices have been developed, which tend towards the ideal of a world-set-of-rights. The goals of bringing together the greater possible number of countries and binding them with such protective charters have been achieved with varying degrees of success in many countries. Nigeria seems to be an infant in this arena; albeit, our

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