ARTISTS, AUTHORS, CREATORS AND MUSICIANS.
In the early hours of Friday, January 15, 2016, two Nigerian musicians; Wizkid and Dammy Krane were reported to have been engaged in a fight based on an earlier Twitter rant by the latter. Dammy Krane had tweeted that Wizkid had ‘stolen’ some of his songs, punch lines, slangs and more and used them to enrich the ‘Wizkid’ brand without any acknowledgment of Dammy Krane’s ownership. Other artistes and entertainers intervened and the matter was settled amicably with neither party having to resort to asserting their claim in court.
Fast forward to 2017, similar issues about ‘stolen’ songs and lyrics have arisen between various Nigerian entertainers. Most notable among these is the very recent accusation leveled by Blackface against former Plantashun Boiz band mate; Innocent ‘2face’ Idibia. Claiming exclusive rights to the lyrics of several hit songs by the latter, Blackface has constantly issued threats of filing a lawsuit against his former band mate since their split in the early 2000s. He claimed this will ensure that he gets paid royalties due to him for his creative efforts.
To a lot of Nigerians, the ‘baboon dey work, monkey dey chop’ nature of the entertainment industry as seen by the above incidents, is just one of those things which seem inherently Nigerian. It will however be of much help to us all (especially upcoming artists hoping to ‘blow’ to understand the legal concept of copyright (which is an unavoidable concept in the music business). This is in order to ensure that creators are given due credit for their creative works. If a person or an organization is said to hold the copyright on a piece of writing, music, etc., they are the only people who have the legal right to publish, broadcast or perform it and other people must ask their permission to use it or any part of it.
Under Nigerian copyright law, copyright (in everyday grammar, simply the right to make and sell copies) is automatically vested in the creator the moment the expression of an idea is “fixed in a tangible medium” (in other words, the moment it is written down, typed or recorded on tape or CD) With respect to music specifically, there are really two copyrights:
- Copyright in the musical composition owned by the songwriter and a sound recording
- Copyright in the sound of the recording owned by the recording artist (but is usually transferred to the record company when a record deal is signed).
It is important to note that the material/work to be copyrighted must be in a fixed form, anything that is not recorded in a fixed form cannot be copyrighted. Essentially, copyrights do not protect ideas, procedures, processes, and systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, or discoveries. In this context, a dance move or gesture cannot be copyrighted (because it is not in a fixed/tangible form). However, a video of such dance move could be copyrighted.
Copyrights generally relate to questions of who has the right to copy and control the distribution of original works. Copyrights protect a literary, musical, dramatic, choreographic, pictorial or graphic, audiovisual, or architectural work, or a sound recording, from being reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.
In Nigeria, to copyright an original work, a creator or author of a creative work may pay a stated fee in favor of the NCC (Nigerian Copyright Commission), to a designated bank. Note that this fee is neither necessary nor statutory and can be considered as mere administrative fee. However, a very important step involves filling a form which includes the nature of the work, year of creation, name of creator and name of the owner of the copyright among other details. This form will be submitted to the Nigerian Copyright Commission along with a copy or copies of the work for processing. If the application is successful the Commission shall present the applicant with a “Notification of Copyright” to the work.
The filing of a copyright registration form to the Nigeria Copyright Commission grants additional protection to the applicant. It helps to establish a record of the existence of the copyright and ensures the presumption of validity in the event where a breach occurs or in an event where there is a violation of the rights of the creator in relation to the creative work. Another benefit offered by registration is that it also allows for lawsuits to be commenced in court and, allows an award of costs incurred, damages and lawyer fees to the injured party.
However, in line with the advance in technology, the registration of copyrights in Nigeria has evolved from the traditional method. Applicants can now apply and register their works with the Nigerian Copyright Commission through the Nigerian Copyright eRegistration System (NCeRS). The advantages this method has over the traditional registration method include:
- Documentation of creative work from any part of the world
- Searchability of the NCeRS for information relating to any copyright work
- Flexible payment for services offered by the Commission
- Efficiency and prompt delivery for service requested
Copyrights would be infringed in the event of copying or reproducing an original work without permission; creating of a new work directly derived from the original work. For example by translating to another language or performing or displaying the work in public. Always remember that you own the copyright in your creative work the moment you write it down or record it, and you can only transfer those rights by signing a written agreement to transfer them. Therefore, you must be cautious of any agreement you are asked to sign.
As an additional precaution, creators are advised to place a notice of their copyright on all copies of the work. This consists of the symbol ‘©’ or the word “copyright”, the author’s name, and the year in which the work was created (for example: ‘©Jack Jill 2017)
This article was first published here!