Basic Copyright Concepts for Authors


September 22, 2016 — As an author, one aspect of intellectual property you must be familiar with is copyright law. Copyright law protects literary works such as brochures, catalogs, compilations of information, computer software, magazine articles, magazines, newspaper articles, newspapers, novels, nonfiction articles, short fiction, and short stories. Copyright Law also protects works such as audiovisual works, dramatic works, sound recordings and musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.

What is not Covered by Copyright Law?

Copyright law does not protect names, symbols, ideas, inventions, facts,  processes, systems of operations, or proprietary information. While words, names and symbols used to identify good and services are protected by trademark law, inventions and processes are protected under patent law.

How Do I Get Copyright Protection for My Work?

As soon as a work is fixed in a tangible form, copyright protection is automatic. For a short-story writer, the work becomes fixed as soon as the author dictates the story, writes it down or types it into the computer. The work must be “original”, e.g., not based upon someone else’s work. The fact that the short story may be similar to many other stories does not mean it is not “original” for copyright purposes, so long as the author did not copy the story from another source. The original author of a work owns the copyright to that work, unless he or she has assigned those rights to a third party.

What Happens When I Sign a Publisher’s Agreement?

Before signing a Publisher’s Agreement (PA), you may want to consider certain facts. For example, most PA’s ask that you assign the copyright to the publisher or the publishing firm. If you chose to do so, you run risk of being unable to freely use your work as you design. Issues may arise when you seek to distribute your work to others. To address these challenges, you should negotiate with publishers to retain explicit ownership of your work.

When is My Work Protected?

Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

Do I have to register with the Nigerian Copyright Commission to be protected?

No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) however maintains a database of works registered in Nigeria.

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About Ufuoma Akpotaire 310 Articles
Ufuoma is a Senior Editor and Director of Regulatory Policy at NLIPW. She assists clients in the protection of copyrights, trademarks and patents. She counsels clients regarding validity and infringement matters and has experience acting against the infringement of IP and addressing counterfeit issues. She holds a Masters degree (LL.M.) from Columbia Law School, New York and a law degree from the University of Nigeria (LL.B. Honors). She is admitted to practice law in Nigeria and in the State of New York. Ufuoma cut her teeth in the intellectual property practice groups of some of the largest law firms in Nigeria and has years of experience working with major non-profit organizations in New York. Email: