Founders Guide on Copyright Licensing

Copyright is described as a bundle of rights vested on creators of literary and artistic works to the exclusion of third parties, subject to limitations and exceptions provided in statutes. The Copyright Act LFN 2004 governs copyright protection in Nigeria. Protected works under the Act include literary and musical works, cinematography, films, sound recording and broadcasts. Although not explicitly identified in Section 1 of the Copyright Act, software programs and their source codes may also be classified as literary works and protected under copyright law.

There are two broad cadres of rights that a copyright holder may enjoy. First, copyright confers ownership rights, including the right to exclude the world from accessing or using the protected work. This includes the right to prevent any form of copying, adaptation or dealing in the protected work without the creator’s consent. Second, copyright vests its holder with the right to exploit and recoup the commercial value of the protected material. Indeed, it has been argued that the right to capture commercial value is the primary incentive for creators. According to Maskus, copyright law facilitates “contracts in which various contributors to creative digital products and services can share income and ownership.” Furthermore, the copyright holder also reserves the exclusive right to license, sell, and transfer the protected work. In recent times, it may also be used as security for loans and other financial instruments.

This Guide aims to set out, albeit briefly, the nature of copyright protection, emphasising how copyright protected works can be licensed and assigned by its holders.