Not enough attention was paid to the protection of intellectual property rights in the past but with sustained enlightenment, that appears to now be changing and Nigerian creatives can no longer afford to look away.

Nigerian creatives (this includes writers, singers, songwriters, playwrights, actors, recording artists, performing artists, choreographers, dance instructors, copywriters, fashion designers, graphics designers, illustrators, painters and software programmers among others) have begun to identify the need to not just have their terms of engagement properly expressed in written contracts but also adequately couched to protect their ideas and the expressions of such ideas in whatever form.

The importance of protecting the works of creatives has also been recognised by many lawyers and perhaps government and other stakeholders in the creative industry. Indeed, everyone appears to agree that protecting intellectual property is crucial to unlocking the potentials of the entertainment, tourism, creative arts and allied sectors of the economy.

In 2017, the federal government added Software development and publishing; Motion picture, video and television programme production, distribution, exhibition and photography; Music production, publishing and distribution to the Pioneer Status Incentive list to allow investors in these endeavours enjoy tax reliefs. The decision was taken to attract more investment into the creative industry and the movies aspect of the industry is for instance projected to generate about $1 billion in export revenue over the next three years. It goes without saying, that practitioners in the industry must consciously protect their intellectual property from abuse and infringement by opportunists in order to maximise their potential gains. To help this process, we provide a brief introductory guide on what creatives need to know:

What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property (or “IP”) essentially refers to a category of property produced by intellectual activity. It can also be defined as legal rights which result from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields. IP rights therefore amount to legal rights conferred on the output of those who engage in creative, innovative and inventive activities. Such rights primarily encompass copyrights,patents, and trademarks. Other types of rights, such as trade secrets, publicity rights and moral rights are also considered to fall under the domain of IP rights.

Overview of the Protection Available Under the Various IP Rights
1. Copyright: Copyright provides protection and exclusive rights for creative works of authorship, such as literary, artistic and musical works, as well as entrepreneur rights relating to exploitation of these works by opportunists. Copyright is open to writers, singers, songwriters, scriptwriters and movie producers, among others.

2. Neighboring rights: Refers to the rights of performers and makers of sound recordings to be paid fairly for the broadcast and public performance of their works. These rights are based on live performances (e.g. Poetry recitation, concerts and so on), as well as expression of folklore.

3. Patents: These are likely rights that are conferred on inventors of new and useful products and processes which meet the legal requirements for protection.

4. Trademarks: Refers to rights conferred on unique words or symbols used to identify the source of products in the market place and also distinguish the goods and services of a proprietor from those of others.

5. Publicity Rights: This may otherwise be referred to as often called personality rights and implies the right of an individual to direct and control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness, or some other identifiable aspects of his/her identity. This is particularly useful for creatives who may be hired as brand ambassadors by various companies in Nigeria and would want to prevent the undue exploitation of their identities.

6. Moral Rights: Generally applies to writers and authors of copyrighted works. The right entails proper attribution i.e being credited as the author of the work (where for instance the work is shared on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs or any other platform) and deciding whether or not the work should be published anonymously or with the use of a pseudonym. It also covers the right to integrity of the work put out under the author’s identity.

The concept of Intellectual Property is an evolving one, more so in Nigeria. It is neither static nor boring. All creatives are enjoined to pay more attention to protecting their IP rights to maximise the gains from their hardwork. Should there be need for any clarification in respect of the content of this introductory guide or further guidance on getting legal services to ensure the protection of the rights discussed, please feel free to send a mail to [email protected] and we will be glad to help out.