Copyright FAQ

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection for “original works of authorship,” which includes literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other works, that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Example: copyright laws protect published and unpublished books, poetry, plays, movies, music scores, song recordings, computer software, photographs, paintings, and drawings. Copyright laws do not protect facts, ideas, inventions, systems or methods of operation, but may protect the way in which such things are expressed.

When does copyright protection begging ?

An individual’s work is protected by copyright from the moment he/she creates the work and fixes it in a tangible form. Registration of a work with the Nigerian Copyright Office is not required for protection in Nigeria, but is generally required if you want to bring a lawsuit for infringement of your work in Nigeria.

How long does a copyright last?

The Terms and Conditions of protection for a copyright depend on different factors, including whether the work was published, the date of its first publication, where the work was first published and whether the work is anonymous, pseudonymous or a work made for hire. In general, copyright protection for a work first published in Nigeria, after January 1, 1978 lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years from the date of death. For a joint work that is authored by several people, copyright protection lasts for 70 years after the date of death of the last surviving author. The copyright term for an anonymous or pseudonymous work or a work made for hire is 95 years from the date of first publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first.

Do I own my work or article? Do I have the right to post my work or article on Raadaa?

The answers to these questions will depend upon your particular situation. The general rule is that whosoever creates a work is the author and owner of the work. However, there are exceptions to the rule for works made for hire and for copyrights that have been transferred, assigned, willed or given to another party. For example, copyright ownership of a paper written by a faculty member may be determined in several different ways, including, but not limited to - by a written agreement between the university and the faculty member or by the university’s institutional policies on the ownership of copyrights for works created at the university and the allocation of royalties between the university and the author. In addition, publishers frequently require authors to transfer their copyrights to the publishers as a condition of publication. The transfer of ownership of a copyright to a publisher will prevent the author from future use of the work unless the author has previously agreed with the publisher that he or she reserves the right to use the work for certain purposes, such as teaching, research or other non-profit educational activities, or for certain types of use, such as rights to post an electronic version of the work on the faculty member’s website or on websites like Raadaa. Many journals will also allow an author to retain his/her rights to all pre-publication drafts of a published work, which permit the author to post a pre-publication version of the work on Raadaa. According to Sherpa, which tracks journal publishers' approach to copyright, 90% of journals allow uploading of either a pre-print or post-print version of your paper.

May I use someone else's work without getting permission?

In general, you should not use a copyright protected work without permission.f you do so, the copyright owner may bring an infringement action against you. However, under the “fair use” doctrine in Nigeria’s copyright law, there may be circumstances in which it is permissible to use limited portions of a work without permission from the copyright owner, such as quoting part of a work, for purposes like commentary, criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research. Whether a particular use qualifies as a fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the specific circumstances of the use. There are no rules that permit the use of a certain number of words or percentage of a work as a “fair use.” For more information about fair use, please see the Nigerian Copyright Office’s fact-sheet at