The Need for Privacy Rights Over Commissioned Works Under The Nigerian Copyright Law
Copyright is a branch of intellectual property that vests exclusive rights for creative works of authorship in respect of works provided for under Section 1(1) of the Copyright Act Chapter C28 Laws of Federation of Nigeria 2004 (the “Copyright Act”).
As opposed to patents and industrial designs whose protection is dependent on its registration, copyright protection automatically vests in the author of the work upon the fixation of the work into a definite form without the prerequisite of registration or compliance with any formality. It is also pertinent to note that what copyright protects is the expression of an idea and not the idea in itself.
The purpose of copyright protection is to confer on the author the exclusive right over the creative work and to prohibit or authorize other persons to exploit same.
Author’s Rights under the Copyright Act
The Act confers certain rights on the author of a copyright work. These rights include:
- Economic rights and;
- Moral rights.
Economic rights grant to the author the exclusive right to commercially exploit the work against all other persons, thereby protecting his pecuniary interest in the work. However, economic rights are for a limited duration of time upon expiration of which, the work goes into the public domain following which the members of the public can freely exploit. The 1st Schedule to the Copyright Act provides for the duration of copyright in respect of various categories of works.
Moral rights, on the other hand, seek to protect the reputation and honour of the author in respect of the creative work in which copyright subsists. Under the provisions of Section 12(1) of the Copyright Act, two forms of moral rights are conferred on the author of a copyrighted work and they include;
- Right to paternity
- Right to integrity
The right to paternity indicates the author’s right to claim authorship of his work. It places a requirement that his authorship shall be mentioned where the work is exploited in any manner.
Hence, false attribution of authorship to a person other than the true author of the work will be tantamount to a legal wrong. This was exemplified in the case of Maurice Ukaoha v. Broad-Based Mortgage Finance Limited & Anor where the court held that the acts of the defendants which included the model of the plaintiff being advertised by the defendants in some national newspapers as its proposed headquarters as well as attributing authorship of the model to a 3rd party instead of the plaintiff without the consent of the plaintiff constituted an infringement of the plaintiff’s honour and reputation as the author and owner of the model.
The right to integrity which is the second category of moral right is the right of the author to object and seek relief in connection with any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, and any other derogatory action concerning his work, where such action would be prejudicial to his honour or reputation.
The essence of these rights are not far-fetched and can be linked to the principal objective of intellectual property protection, which is to protect the private interests of owners of intellectual work by recognizing their ownership rights in their creations or inventions.
Author’s Rights Vis-À-Vis the Rights of Commissioners over Commissioned Works
The Copyright Act essentially provides that ownership of copyright vests in the author. This provision still stands where the author is being commissioned to create the work or under a contract of employment. Nonetheless, the Act stipulates that a written contract stating otherwise will overturn the general rule, thereby vesting ownership of the copyright in the employer, under a contract of employment or the commissioner, in respect of a commissioned work.
Irrespective of this exception and other exceptions provided for under the Act, it is evident that the Copyright Act seeks to protect the interest of the author concerning his creation whether the work was carried out under a contract of employment or commissioned. The rationale behind the stipulation of the Act which vest copyright in the author is to ensure that his authorship is protected.
The author possessing copyright in a work, whether literal, artistic or musical work has the right to exploit the work in a various manner ranging from reproducing, publishing, selling, distributing, communicating the work to the public and many other acts provided for under the Act.
However, there are circumstances whereby these acts or exploitation may be unfavourable or prejudicial to a person other than the author and this may occur where work or creation is being commissioned.
A practical example is photographs and films commissioned for private and domestic purposes. In this instance, where a person commissions another person to take a photograph or make a film, copyright subsists in the outcome of the work in favour of the latter, that is the author.
The author reaps the benefit of exploiting the photograph or film either by exhibiting or issuing of the work to the public, as copyright subsists in his favour and without regard to the purpose for which the work was commissioned.
Moreover, the Copyright Act does not make any provision protecting any right whatsoever, in favour of the commissioner concerning the commissioned work. Hence, the author is at liberty to do whatever he pleases with the commissioned work and can find solace under the provisions of Section 10 of the Copyright Act.
Rights of A Commissioner Over Commissioned Works: A Comparative Analysis
Under the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (C.D.P.A), there are four moral rights recognized under UK law:
- The Right to Attribution; that is the right to be identified as the creator of your work.
- The Right of Integrity; that is the right to object to derogatory treatment of your work which negatively affects the author’s reputation.
- The Right to object to False Attribution; that is the right to not be identiﬁed as the creator of a work created by another.
- The Right of Privacy; that is the right to not have photographs or films commissioned for private and domestic purposes exhibited, broadcast or issued to the public.
The first two moral rights seek to protect the creator of the work and they are in line with the rights of paternity and integrity granted under the Nigerian Copyright Act. However, the last two moral rights are concerned with both managing a person’s reputation and the privacy of those who have commissioned photographs or films.
The rationale behind section 85 of the U.K. Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is to protect the interest of the commissioner and to enable him to control the exploitation of works commissioned for private and domestic purposes. Hence, anyone commissioning the taking of a photograph or the making of a film in which copyright subsists in the resulting work but for private and domestic purposes is conferred the right not to have the work exploited by:
- Issuing copies of the work to the public;
- exhibiting or showing the work in public or;
- Communicating the work to the public.
This provision guarantees that the author of the photograph or film commissioned for private or domestic purpose is restricted from exercising his right of ownership in a way that is detrimental or prejudicial to the commissioner’s privacy.
Thus, the doing or authorising of any acts under section 84(1) of the C.D.P.A by the author infringes the right of privacy of the commissioner and the latter can successfully institute an action against the author.
Conclusion & Recommendation
The right of privacy over commissioned works is very essential and plays a vital role in protecting the privacy of the commissioner especially where the work commissioned is for private or domestic purpose and not for public display, commercial purpose or enjoyment.
The Copyright Act does not provide for a right of privacy neither does it make a similar provision protecting the privacy of commissioners concerning commissioned works. Nonetheless, the commissioner may rely on the exception provided for under section the 10(2) of the Act.
It provides that where there is a contrary stipulation in a written contract, then copyright will not vest initially in the author of the work or creation. This simply means that the commissioner and the author (photographer or filmmaker in this case) may sign a written agreement stating that copyright in the work would vest in the commissioner or may agree that while copyright may vest in the author, the commissioner will possess the right to restrict the author from issuing copies, exhibiting or communicating the work to the public under the contract and this will be binding on both parties.
The photographer may also sign a release agreement which dictates that all his rights in the photographic work are released and now conferred on the commissioner of the work.
In other words, in the absence of a release agreement or a contrary provision limiting the rights of the author in respect of a commissioned work, the commissioner will be incapable of restricting the author from issuing copies, exhibiting or communicating the work to the public although the work was created for private or domestic purposes.
Therefore, the right of privacy needs to be incorporated into the Copyright Act to maintain an equilibrium between the author’s right of ownership and the commissioner’s right to privacy. This will ensure that whilst ownership of the copyright in a commissioned work vests in the author, the commissioner of the work retains the right to restrict the author from issuing copies, exhibiting or communicating the work to the public, where the work was commissioned for private or domestic purpose.