The Legal Framework regulating Copyright in the Nigerian Entertainment Industry
NEWS DIGEST – There is no doubt that it is desirable at the onset of an investigation or enquiry into any topical issue to define and delimit its scope. With due regard to this therefore, it is pertinent to establish a foundational appraisal of entertainment law before engaging the crux of this work. This will help in navigating the murky waters embedded in the task at hand.
According to The Free Dictionary by Farlex, entertainment law is defined as
“The area of law governing professionals and businesses in the entertainment industry, particularly contracts and Intellectual Property; more particularly, certain legal traditions and aspects of these areas of law that are unique to the entertainment industry.”
The Dictionary further sheds light on the components of entertainment industry. It reads thus:
“The entertainment industry includes the fields of theater, film, fine art, dance, opera, music, literary publishing, television, and radio. These fields share a common mission of selling or otherwise profiting from creative works or services provided by writers, songwriters, musicians and other artistes.”
Legal issues arise at all stages of the creation of original works of entertainment. This spans from the production stage where formal contracts are drawn to set forth the respective rights of the parties involved in an entertainment work, to the licensing and distribution stage. Entertainment law covers legislation regulating media of all types i.e. television, film, music, publishing, advertising, internet, and news, etc.
Copyright is a form of intellectual property applicable to certain forms of creative work. It is a legal right that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution. Artistes entitled to these rights are refereed to as right holders. These rights frequently include reproduction, control over derivative works, distribution, public performance, and moral rights such as attribution.
The legal framework regulating copyright in the Nigerian Entertainment Industry incorporates three crucial facets viz: statutory framework, judicial framework and institutional framework.
The statutory framework is enshrined under Nigerian Copyright Act, CAP C28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. The first paragraph of the act reads thus:
“An Act to make provisions for the definition, protection, transfer, infringement of and remedy and penalty thereof of the copyright in literary works, musical works, artistic works, cinematograph films, sound recordings, broadcast, and other ancillary matters.”
Under this act, original literary, musical and artistic works, cinematography films, sound recordings and broadcast are eligible for copyright. Copyrights are conferred on works whose author or in the case of a work of a joint authorship, any of the author is a citizen of Nigeria or domiciled in Nigeria or a body corporate incorporated under the laws of Nigeria.
Copyrights are also conferred on works arising from international agreements where at the date of first publication, one of the authors is a Nigerian citizen or domiciled in Nigeria; or the work is published under the laws of Nigeria.
In a nutshell, the Nigerian Copyright Act spells out the rules and procedure regulating the ownership and ensuing protection of original contents from unauthorised use. It seeks to protect the intellectual property of owners of creative works from being infiltrated by miscreants. Furthermore, it spells out the procedure for obtaining redress in cases of infringement.
The detailed legislation contains an exhaustive list of issues relating to copyright. Some of the issues contained therein include works eligible for copyright under section 1, infringement of copyright under section 14, criminal liability in copyright under section 18, performer’s right under section 23, infringement of performer’s right under section 25 and so on.
It is a notorious fact that the judicial arm of any establishment is responsible for interpreting the law and punishing offenders. It therefore does not come as a surprise that the judicial framework regulating copyright in the Nigerian Entertainment Industry entails how the courts of law interpret the law spelt out by the Nigerian Copyright Act to punish erring parties and protect the innocent ones.
We shall take a look at three judicial authorities which shall help shed more light on the issue.
In the case of Nigerian Copyright Commission v Nwore Anayo 55 NIPJD (FHC. 2012) ABJ/CR/10/2012, on the charge of Sale and Possession of Local and Foreign Musical and Cinematograph Films, the accused was charged for being in possession of 631 infringing copies of copyright works under Section 20(2)(c) of the Copyright Act. The accused pleaded guilty. Delivering the judgement on March 12, 2012, Justice Abdu-Kafarati of the Federal High Court No. 2 Abuja, sentenced the accused to both a fine of N63,310 and six months imprisonment. The court also ordered that the exhibits, 631 copies of infringing materials, be returned to the Nigerian Copyright Commission for destruction.
Furthermore, in the case of Nigerian Copyright Commission v Eze Igwe 55 NIPJD (FHC. 2013) ABJ/CR/93/2012, on the charge of Sale and Possession of Pirated Optical Discs, the accused, Eze Igwe, was charged on count one for breach of Section 20(2)(c) of the Nigerian Copyright Act, CAP C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, for being in possession of 250 copies of copyright infringing optical discs works in DVDs, VCDs and CDs. The accused was also charged with breach of Section 20(2)(a) of the Copyright Act i.e. offering for sale 250 copies of copyright infringing optical discs works in DVDs, VCDs and CDs. The infringing works included foreign films with the titles: Tears of the Sun (2003), Lord of the Rings (2001), The Losers (2010) and Mr. Bean’s Holiday (2007).
In January 30, 2013, Honourable Justice Elvis S. Chukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja convicted the accused of the two-count charge of optical disc piracy and sentenced him to six months imprisonment with an option of N5,000 fine.
In the case of Nigerian Copyright Commission v Stanley Nwankwo 55 NIPJD (FHC. 2012) ABJ/CR/14/2011, on the charge of Sale and Possession of Local and Foreign Musical and Cinematograph Films, the accused was charged on count one for breach of Section 20(2)(c) of the Nigerian Copyright Act, CAP C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, for being in possession (other than for private use) of 504 infringing copies of local and foreign movies and music in DVD and CD formats. The accused was also charged with breach of Section 20(2)(a) of the Copyright Act i.e. offering for sale 504 copies of copyright infringing optical discs works in DVDs, VCDs and CDs.
On February 27, 2012, Honourable Justice B.B. Aliyu of the Federal High Court in Abuja convicted the accused of the two-count charge and sentenced him to six months imprisonment with an option of N50, 400 fine.
The institutional framework regulating copyright in the Nigerian Entertainment Industry is embodied by the Nigerian Copyright Commission.
The Nigerian Copyright Commission is the highest body regulating, advising, and monitoring matters of copyright law in Nigeria.
The Copyright Decree No. 47 of 1988, which now exists as Copyright Act Cap C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 has been aptly described as one of the best of its kind. It not only created most favourable conditions for actualisation of authors’ potentials through comprehensive protection of creative works, but also incorporated establishment for the first time, of a machinery for the administration of copyright and neighbouring rights matters in Nigeria, i.e. Nigerian Copyright Commission.
For administrative, enforcement and regulatory purposes, the Commission has its Headquarters in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, with nine Zonal Offices and five Liaison Offices spread across the six geopolitical regions of Nigeria.
The major duty of the Nigerian Copyright Commission is to implement the copyright law as spelt out under the Nigeria Copyright Act to protect the Intellectual property of original content owners from unauthorised use or infiltration.
The Commission also performs other activities such as public enlightenment workshops, seminars, conferences, etc. as a way of creating the necessary awareness on the Act and its implications for the copyright community in the country.
Having exhaustively engaged the legal framework regulating copyright in the Nigerian Entertainment Industry vis-a-vis the statutory, judicial and institutional framework, it is not out of place to opine in conclusion that these three facets can be compared to the three arms of government viz: legislature, executive and judiciary.
The statutory framework can be likened to the legislature in that the Nigerian Copyright Act enacts the law regulating copyright in Nigeria.
The judicial framework is a brain-child of the judicial arm of government as it interprets the enacted law and punishes offenders found guilty of an infringement.
Finally, the institutional framework bears striking resemblance with the executive arm of government as it ensures the proper implementation and observance of the law regulating copyright in Nigeria.