Authorship of Works Vis-À-Vis Ownership of Copyright

Authorship of Works Vis-À-Vis Ownership of Copyright


What is a work?

When dealing with copyright protection, a work can be simply defined as anything that is copyrightable. As you may have learned from the previous article, any artistic, literary or scientific product expressed in a material format, and is a result of independent skill, judgement and effort is a copyrightable work. In order for any such work to be eligible for copyright protection, it should first not of all not be disqualified for protection under the Copyright Order 1989, not be a copy of someone else’s work and it should expressed in a reproducible format.

  1. Who is an Author?

Under the Copyright Order, an author is a creator of a work. This is the person who conceptualizes an idea and brings it to life. He/She is more than just the master mind; it is the actual potter of the clay pots, the actual sculptor molding with his hands, the actual composer of that hit single, and the actual camera operator whose finger hits the shutter button.

2. Who is an Owner?

It is the person who uses their independent skill, judgement and effort to create a work. In some instance two or more people may jointly create a work, such that it is difficult to determine the amount of their individual contribution. In such, they will be referred to as joint authors.

An owner of Copyright is a person who has the exclusive right to enjoy rights in a particular work. In terms of section 21 of the Copyright Order, the author of a work is at first instance the owner of it. The same applies to join-authors, they are at first instance co-owners of any such work.

However, there are circumstances where an author of work may not necessarily be the owner of it and these are whereby:

a) The work was created in the course of employment or in the fulfillment of duty under a contract of service. If there is no agreement to contrary, the ownership of such will be deemed to have been assigned to the employer.

b) The ownership rights have been transferred by inheritance or by sale. Ownership rights, which is the rights to exclusively reproduce, copy, broadcast, perform, adapt and translate a work can be assigned to a third party in part or as a whole . In such an instance, the assignee will become the owner to the extend that he has received the rights.

c) Ownership rights have been inherited through a Will. The beneficiary of a copyright work may not necessarily be the author of it, but he or she becomes the new owner.

3. Authorship Rights 

These rights are often referred to as the author’s moral rights, and the author is granted by law the right to:

  • Claim authorship of his/her work. The author has the right to demand that they be credited for the work he/she has created except where the work is included incidentally or accidentally when reporting current events by means of photography, sound or visual recording, broadcasting or distribution by cable.
  • Object to, and to seek relief in connection with, any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, and any other derogatory action in relation to, his work, where such action would be or is prejudicial to his honor or reputation

4. Ownership Rights

An owner of copyright in a work has the exclusive right to;

(a) reproduce the work;
(b) communicate the work to the public by performance, broadcasting,
distribution by cable or any other means;
(c) make an adaptation, translation, arrangement or other transformation of the work;
(d) allow or prohibit anyone to do the aforementioned acts.

While ownership and authorship may sometimes be used interchangeably, it is important that the differences discussed above be taken into consideration because they have by law different implications.

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