What does the new copyright law mean for Nigerian content creators?

Ganiu Oloruntade
How African digital creators are creating jobs and growing the economy in 2023

On March 17, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Copyright Bill 2022 into law months after the National Assembly passed it. The copyright law, which repeals the Copyright Act of 2004, provides effective administration, regulation, enforcement, and copyright protection in the digital environment in line with global best practices.

It also provides explicit protection for audio-visual works in digital content, which means online content, including pictures, videos, sound recordings, and other productions, can’t be used without the creators’ consent.

In a statement, Nasiru Baballe Ila, a presidential aide, stated that the law would ensure recognition for intellectual efforts, provide appropriate limitations and exceptions to guarantee access to creative works and strengthen the capacity of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) –the regulatory agency in charge–for effective implementation.

He added that the new Copyright Act expands authors’ rights, raises the sanctions for criminal infringements, and “more adequately addresses the challenges posed by digital and online use of copyright works.”

copyright law
Image Source: Twitter.

The Director-General of the NCC, Dr John Asein, also noted that the law has a better definition of terms and the scope of rights granted for clarity and to align with the digital environment. “For instance, “copy” in relation to a work is now defined to mean a reproduction in any form, including a digital copy. This is an improvement on the old Act where it was defined narrowly to mean a reproduction in a material form,” he wrote in this piece.

Read also: 15 side hustles that can help you make easy money as a Nigerian creative

Content creation in Nigeria has risen recently, with many talented creators producing content that resonates with local and global audiences. This growth is driven by a tech-savvy youthful population and increased internet penetration. The creator economy – just a small part of a larger microcosm known as the gig economy – comprises the side hustles and independent businesses built by content creators, social media influencers, bloggers, and videographers.

Tech giants — YouTube, Meta, and TikTok — have provided opportunities for Nigerian creators to showcase their talents and reach a wider audience whilst making money. According to Jobberman, the creative sector currently employs an estimated 4.2 million Nigerians, making it the second-largest employer in the country, and it has the potential to create an additional 2.7 million jobs by 2025.

copyright law
Image Source Technext.

Although technology has increased reach and publicity for creators, it also increased the propensity for copyright infringement. The absence of robust copyright law has made it difficult for these creators to protect their intellectual property and monetize their works effectively.

Last year, Nigerian comedian Oga Sabinus sued two companies over copyright infringement. In 2020, Mr Macaroni, another funnyman, called out Wema Bank for using his popular catchphrase, “Ooin You’re Doing Well,” without his consent. Experts say the Copyright Act seeks to overhaul the existing framework and provide greater protection to content creators.

“One of the things that this Copyright Act has done is to recognize this challenge. If you check Section 54 of the Act, you’d find that it provides better protection for owners of copyright in online contents. You’re now also empowered under the law, as the copyright owner, to instruct the Internet service providers (ISP) to take down an infringing content.” Oyindolapo Olusesi, a tech lawyer and Data Protection Officer at Kora, a pan-African payments company, told Technext.

Read also: The creative economy currently employs 4.2m Nigerians, to add 2.7m more by 2025

A sigh of relief for content creators

For Joseph Onaolapo, popularly known as Jay On-Air, a content creator and media presenter, the new law should excite Nigerian creatives because it offers backing to take legal action. He recalled when he began making TikTok videos, and an unnamed blog was using his content without permission, he was not credited for his work.

“I almost felt powerless because I just started at the time and I didn’t even know what to do. Now that I’m bigger than I was, I have some protection. But to see that there is a law backing me is more exciting, especially for up-and-coming creators. No random people can use your content without crediting you,” he said.

Tayo Aina, a YouTuber and travel vlogger, who shared a similar story of how his videos were used for promotional purposes without his content, told Technext that the Act would help creators guard their intellectual property.

“I’m particularly excited about this because, in the past, brands could take a creator’s content and slap it on a billboard without due authorization, and go without any repercussions. This Act gives creators legal backing to fully own their work and enforce their rights,” said Alma Asinobi, a content creator and storyteller.

However, she expressed concerns about some provisions of the law that empower the NCC power to authorize the use of work by any person in specific situations.

Read also: Meta hosts popular content creators to exclusive dinner on the metaverse in Lagos

How will content creators leverage this law?

Oyindolapo, the tech lawyer, explained that the Act clearly defines “fair dealing” — one of the contentious issues under copyright. Fair dealing, in simple terms, means allowing the use of a copyrighted work without permission from the author. A similar provision, known as “fair use”, exists under Section 107 of the Copyright Act of the United States.

“The Nigerian Copyright Act balances both sides of the divide: the direct owner of the content and the other parties leveraging on it,” he said, adding that the law applies to registered and unregistered copyright.

Image Source: Shutterstock.

Regarding leveraging the Act to protect creative works, Tayo disclosed that it’s important to understand the law and find the right copyright lawyers to work with.

On her part, Alma disclosed that she would be including a new clause in all of her contracts that clearly states the penalty for violations as stated by the law.

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