Copyright: Preserving your creative work in a social era

The last segment (here) was to follow with a detailed discussion on the non-disclosure agreement. However, conversations with some entrepreneur friends this week warranted a discussion about copyright protections. During the discussion, it was quite evident that some entrepreneurs believe the notion of copyright is all but a fictional concept in frontier markets like Nigeria, especially in a social era where creative works are easily available to the public through social media sites.

The comments during the conversation included, “no one cares about copyright, if my work is stolen, life goes on,” “but what courts in Nigeria have the time to resolve copyright cases when it has more interesting election cases pending before it?” and“I barely have enough time to run my business let alone go through the tedious copyright registration process.”

Image result

During the colourful conversation, entrepreneurs seemed to agree that copyright protection is alive and well in Western countries. However in frontier markets, copyright protection has been tucked deep into the judicial mountains, making enforcement merely a fantasy. The comments of these highly talented entrepreneurs were littered with elements of ambiguity about enforcement procedures, and most importantly, what constitutes copyrightable work.

1. Copyrightable work—Distinguishing the leaves in the forest

Copyright protects creative and original expressions such as images, music, and texts. In some jurisdictions, copyright protects particular expressions of ideas and not the general idea itself. For example, the U.S. Copyright statute dictates that “[in] no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work” (17 U.S.C. Section 102(b)).

Similarly, the Nigerian Copyright Commission noted that a “work is ‘created’ when it is ‘fixed’ in a tangible medium.” Thus, in some jurisdictions, copyright protection does not reach beyond the protection of the specific form of idea.

To illustrate, if you and a friend both decide to independently create a painting of Mount Kilimanjaro, your two paintings could qualify as copyrightable work if you both expressed your work in your original forms. To this end, it is not the idea of painting the mountain that is protected; rather, the original form or the painters’ expression of the mountain is what is protected by copyright.

Simply put, copyrightable work is analogous to the leaves in a forest; each leaf appears in a form that is distinguishable from the other despite having similar characteristics with other leaves.

Image result for beyonce pay me gifs

The second point raised during the conversation was the lack of time to register their work. The good news is that in some jurisdictions, this is not an issue because protection is automatic once one’s work is released into the public domain. In such instances, registration becomes a mere formality and helps put the general public on notice.

Registration also has the added benefit of making enforcement and seeking judicial remedies easier. Thus, depending on one’s jurisdiction, registration of one’s work may not be a prerequisite to benefiting from copyright protection. Nonetheless, formal registration is highly recommended.

2. Copyright protection is well and alive, even in African countries!

Recent developments this month reminded me that copyright protection is alive and well, even in African countries! Last week, The Nation newspaper reported that “[a] Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, February 12, dismissed the preliminary objections filed by former winner of the Face of Africa pageant, Oluchi Onweagba, who was contesting a copyright suit filed against her”.

The Nation noted that Chudi Charles, an executive officer of International Pageant and Films, filed the infringement suit seeking N780 billion in damages on grounds that the defendants used West Africa’s Next Top Model, his registered brand, without his consent. Indeed, the dismissal of the preliminary objections does not necessarily predict the court’s ruling on the matter.

Nonetheless, judicial decisions over the past few years signaled the judiciary’s commitment to enforcement. For example, in November 2015, a federal high court sitting in Lagos awarded an artist, Dr. Sunday Adeniyi Adeye a/k/a King Sunny Ade, damages in the amount of N500 million for copyright infringement.

In 1997, King Sunny Ade filed suit against African Song on grounds of using his master tapes to produce duplicates of his work for public sale without his consent and any remuneration. Several years later, the court ordered the defendants to pay damages. (Sunday Adeniyi Adeye vs. African Song FHC/L/CS/196/97).

Similarly, in Angella Katatumba v. The Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU) (H.C.C.S No. 307 of 2011), a Ugandan high court ordered the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (“ACCU”) to pay damages in the amount of UShs. 25 million to Katatumba, an artist, on grounds that ACCU incorporated Katatumba’s song into an advertisement jingle without her consent.

Likewise, in Nonny Gathoni Njenga & anor v. Catherine Masitsa & 2 ors Civil Case No. 490 of 2013, a Kenyan high court ordered the defendants, Masitsa et al., from reproducing, translating, or adapting the plaintiffs’ literary work, “Wedding Show with Gathoni” into the defendants’ TV Show “Samantha’s Bridal Show.”

Despite the fact that “Samatha’s Bridal Show” was running prior to “Wedding Show with Gathoni,” the court’s ruling was made on grounds that the defendants “changed their old running order [of their TV show, Samantha’s Bridal Show] and copied the plaintiffs.” Thus, although copyright cases may not make headlines very often, this does not necessarily mean that enforcement has been erased from the judicial fabric.

Image result

3. Practical tips

  • As an entrepreneur, you should register your original expression with your copyright registration office.
  • Use copyright notices, e.g. ©, on your copyrightable work. Such notices not only puts the public on notice but aids in preventing an forger from making an innocent infringement defense—a defense whereby the forger claims that they were not aware their act constituted copyright infringement.
  • If you are using photos, music, or other third-party material for your new venture, seek appropriate consent. You do not want to be subjected to a copyright lawsuit that could potentially cost your business millions.
  • If your employees or contractors’ scope of work involves providing you with their original expression of an idea, ensure that you have their written consent to use their work and, if appropriate, seek the rights to any such copyrightable work.

To summarize, copyright remains an enforceable doctrine in African countries. Indeed, embarking on the enforcement process will require a heightened dose of patience. You have worked hard to create your work; protect it judiciously! If you would like insights on a particular topic, write to us! We are listening.

6 career lessons from global superstar Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita nyong'o

Since her feature film debut in 2013, Mexican born Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o’s star has been lit and has remained that way ever since. With a beautiful smile, a boatload of talent and passionate voice she’s been winning hearts all over the globe.

Proven to have many more film projects and theater shows up her sleeve, Lupita is the exact kind of career woman we will happily take future-improving advice from.Lupita Nyong'o

1. Doubt is part of the path

Lupita has said in interviews that when director Steve McQueen had already asked her for a leading role in his screen picture Twelve Years A Slave, she still felt like he could call back any moment to tell her he had made an mistake.

We love how open and honest Lupita has been about the impact of her career so far; living the example that doubt can be a useful instrument rather than a barrier that holds us back from developing ourselves.

2. Speak up for things that matter

The fine art of supporting a cause and not becoming the center point of it – Lupita masters that.

Whether it’s her ambassadorship for WildAid or the race and gender diversity discussion in Hollywood, Lupita’s pages include inspiring posts that explain her personal relation to the cause and encourage fans, readers, followers to get involved.

Lupita Nyong'o

3. Be aware of what makes you happy

Though she has won more awards in two years than lots of peers do in a decade, Lupita says her greatest satisfaction comes from being an inspiration to girls all over the globe, her native Kenya included. Validation and success can not always measured by money or prizes – your social footprint can play a big part in your happiness.

4. Support your environment

Whether it’s her stylist Micaela or co-actress Danielle Brooks, Lupita is supportive of those around her by putting on for them publicly. Especially via social media, Lupita is very outspoken about her talented friends and coworkers.

Lupita Nyong'o with Danielle Brooks

5. Drastic change can make for growth and opportunity

After attending different schools in Nairobi, Kenya, Lupita left for Mexico and the United States, where she went to college. Although it took her a while to appreciate this new environment, Lupita explains: “I was very indecisive about what I wanted to do. I knew that if I was in a more structured environment, I would end up not taking the risks I was raised to take.”

Look at her now!

6. Value your surroundings

When she won an Academy Award, her brother Junior Nyong’o was right by her side, and in other press, Lupita speaks lovingly of her family as well. She says honesty, dignity and integrity are some of the most important character traits she has learned from them. All my conscious life, my father has fought for what he believed in, even when it was highly inconvenient.”

Coming from a hard-working, well known and successful family, Lupita acknowledges the privileges she has been able to enjoy, and always shows gratitude for education.Lupita Nyong'o

Any other career lessons you’ve learned from mega star, Lupita Nyong’o? Any other stars you would like for us to research and investigate?

What Zainab Balogun taught us about branding and working for free

On January 14 we got the chance to connect with Motherland Mogul Zainab Balogun to learn more about building a career in the media and entertainment industry. Click here to see the full recap if you missed the chat.

Zainab is a media professional, TV presenter, producer, budding actress and media entrepreneur. She is currently a presenter for the daily entertainment news show EL Now and original talk show called The Spot on EbonyLife TV. She also appears as a presenter and associate producer on Jumia TV, a teleshopping show. In addition to her presenting responsibilities she is a brand ambassador for Dark and Lovely international hair company.

Zainab dark and lovely

We learned 5 critical things from our chat with Zainab that budding media starlets, early career professionals and brand new entrepreneurs alike can learn from:

Special bonus! Zainab shared the best piece of advice she received when first starting out in her career.

Special thanks to Zainab for joining us and for everyone who participated.

If you want keep up to date with future events hosted by She Leads Africa, join our community and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Twitter Chat with Zainab Balogun: Brand building in the media (Jan 14)

Zainab Balogun

Missed this event? Make sure you don’t miss the next one by joining our community today.

Are you interested in building your brand in the media and entertainment industries? Do you want to apply the lessons that tv presenters use to create opportunities and build loyal followings? Join us on January 14 for a twitter chat with media professional Zainab Balogun on how to build your brand in the media and entertainment industry.

We’ll cover these critical topics:

  • How to identify opportunities when you’re just starting out
  • Should you look for opportunities with big brands or look for independent and online opportunities first
  • How to find mentors and advisors in the industry

About Zainab Balogun:

Zainab is a media professional, TV presenter, producer, budding actress and media entrepreneur. She is currently a presenter for the daily entertainment news show EL Now and original talk show called The Spot on EbonyLife TV. She also appears as a presenter and associate producer on Jumia TV, a teleshopping show.

In addition to her presenting responsibilities she is a brand ambassador for Dark and Lovely international hair company.

Missed the conversation? Read what Zainab taught us about branding and working for free.