Copyright is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic work.  It is that right in law that protects a person’s interest in his intellectual work ranging from fine arts, publishing, entertainment, and computer software. For copyright to subsist, it must come under six areas of eligible works namely:

(a) literary works;

(b) musical works;

(c)  artistic works;

(d)  cinematography, films;

(e)  sound recordings and

(f)  broadcasts.


The aim of copyright law is the protection of an author’s intellectual work from infringement. This is because these rights are chose in action and as such, can only be enforced by legal action.  There are legal limitations as to the duration of these rights and the duration will depend on the nature of the author’s work.

However, as a practicable rule, copyright lasts for the life duration of an author and extends for an additional period of seventy( 70 ) years for works as literary, drama, musical and artistic works after the end of the year in which the work was first published . The time frame for copyright of other works are as follows:

( i ) For cinematography, films and photography fifty(50) years after the end of the year the work was first published.

( ii ) For sound recordings, fifty(50) years after the end of the year in which the recording was first published.

( iii ) For broadcasts, fifty(50) years after the end of the year in which the recording was first published.

From the foregoing, it is clear that copyright does not last forever and the law has struck a balance by providing the duration which a copyright subsist and that such right starts from the moment the work has been created or expressed in a tangible form.


Infringement occurs where there is a breach of copyright by an unauthorized user. Section 16(2) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act provides that copyright on a work is infringed by a person who without the license of the copyright owner does or authorizes another, to do, any of the acts restricted by the copyright. In copyright infringement can either be secondary or primary. It is primary where the infringer uses or take the work of an author without his consent. In this instance, he will be held liable even though ignorant. While in secondary infringement, a person facilitates or manufactures infringing copies of the author’s work. A secondary infringer is only liable if he knew or had reason to know that he is dealing with copies that have been made without the copyright owners permission.

A claimant who claims that his copyright has been infringed on in relation to a substantial part of their work should establish that:

(a) The work in question is a copy of his work.

(b) Copies of such work was issued to the public.

(C) The copies was on rent or lent.

(d) It was performed or show in public.

(e) It has been communicated to the public.

All these acts must have been carried out before a claim of infringement will arise. For the claim of copyright to succeed, the claimant has to prove that the defendant have taken something of the claimant’s work and that their is a connection between the infringement and the original work either directly or indirectly. Therefore where the defendant fails to dismiss the doubt already raised by the claimant for copyright actions, the claim will succeed.



The concept of originality in copyright law has a different expression from its dictionary meaning. In the copyright context, Originality deals with the manner of creation of a work and that the work is produced by the author. Ordinarily, such work or idea may have been in existence but the compilation of such work into a tangible form by the creator vests in him copyright. This is because copyright does not protect mere ideas, rather it protects the expression of ideas in a tangible form and provides an efficient way of exploiting such work economically and morally.  For a work to be original it means there have to be a complete form or version of that work because it is only a completed version of a work that can be copied. The Act requires that a work must be fixed in any definite medium of expression now known or later to be developed, from which it can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated either directly or with the aid of any machine or device.


Section I(2)(a) of the Copyright Act provides that for copyright to subsist in a literary, musical, or artistic work, sufficient effort must have been expended on making the work possess an original character.

Originality in copyright requires authenticity by the author in the production of his work. This means that he did not copy the work verbatim from another person. However, a minimal degree of authenticity is required. In Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service, the courts enhanced restrictions and raised the bar of “Originality” in creative artistic products. It observed that a minimal level of creativity is needed by an artist in addition to putting efforts independently and that copyright protection can only be granted when the work and creativity are original in the making of the art and not merely presenting the works differently.

From the foregoing, the author must not necessarily be the proponent of the Idea for him to have copyright protection of it but the originality that is embedded in the presentation of his ideas is what guarantees his copyright.



Therefore, it does not matter the skill and labor that is employed by a person in reproducing the work of another. What that production will qualify as, is a copy and nothing more. This is  because such an act will not constitute originality under copyright law as it falls short of the concept of creativity and authenticity. In University of London Press Ltd v. University Tutorial Press Ltd,  the court held that the work concerned must be original in the sense that it must not be a verbatim reproduction of prior work, but not in the sense that it must itself be a product of original or inventive thinking.


1.https://www.wipoint/copyright/en/ (accessed 14th March 2023)

2.Section 1(1) of the Nigerian Copyright Act Cap. C. 28 Laws of the Federation 2004.

3.First Schedule of the Nigerian Copyright Act Cap. C. 28 Laws of  the Federation 2004.

3.Section 1(2)(a) of the Nigerian Copyright Act Cap. C. 28 Laws of the Federation 2004

4. Ibid.

5.Section 16(2) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act, 1988.


8. University of London Press Ltd v. University Tutorial Press Ltd(1916)2ch.601 at 608.

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