Copyright Strategies for Startups
We’ll keep this simple
You own the copyright to your work.
You worked hard to acquire it, so it follows that you have exclusive rights to it or at the very least are in control of who uses your property and the manner in which it is being used.
The owner of a copyrighted work is referred to as an “author”. Not every form of content created is eligible for copyright protection under the Nigerian Copyright Act.
Below are the eligible works:
- Literary works;
- Musical works;
- Artistic works;
- Cinematograph films;
- Sound recording; and
Bonus tip: Registering your intellectual property can attract and solidify your fundings or prospective partnerships.
There is a big BUT. Most startups overlook copyright issues.
This is a new business. Copyright can come later
Just copy one paragraph from that article. We’ll give them credit for it.
Not the way to go. Both scenarios do not end well.
In the case of the first example, you could lose access to content that can potentially fetch you money
Two, you could get sued for copyright infringement. As a new business, a lawsuit is the last thing you need. Talk about falling before rising.
In this article, we share copyright strategies for startups.
Get permission to use third party content
The internet is a free and connected world. As such it could be tempting to use works of others without seeking permission first.
Most times people get away with using the content and attributing it later on. But some websites are very particular about their work and insist on every page of their site that you do not use their content without permission.
You do NOT have a defense to infringement by using someone else’s content with attribution. Copyright infringement is a criminal violation under the Nigerian Copyright Act.
Once convicted by the Federal High Court for the sale, possession, or distribution of copyrighted material, you are liable to a fine of N100 for every copy produced and/or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years.
If you are able to get away with just paying the fine, your startup’s reputation might not survive the media onslaught that is sure to follow.
If the work is important to you and is eligible for copyright protection register it with the NCC (Nigerian Copyright Commission)
Let’s debunk a myth here.
You do not have to register a work with the NCC to obtain copyright. By virtue of the work being created by you, and it is in a fixed form, it automatically becomes copyrightable.
However, if the work is something crucial and important to the survival of your business, you have to register and deposit a copy with the NCC.
When you pay to get the work created for you, get copyright ownership
As a startup, it is fairly expected that you will outsource your content to content developers.
A misconception: Hiring someone to get your work done doesn’t automatically grant you ownership of the said work.
Generally, an individual who creates content and fixes it in a tangible medium of expression owns the copyright to that content.
- The content developer is an employee whose job is to create work for your business
- The individual (could be a freelancer) signed a written contract transferring all rights to you.
Ensure that every outsourced content is based on the premise that the individuals will assign the rights to you through a written contract. This could be a provision or clause in your initial contract form.
Copyright cannot protect your ideas
Unfortunately, an idea cannot be copyrighted.
But there is still something to be done
Express your ideas in drawings or text or through pictures and claim copyright to your description. You could take it one step further and include processes, structures, and other details you have in mind.
Bonus tip: If this idea of yours could lead to innovation, it might be time to file a patent. File it fast and keep it quiet. Generally, regardless of who conceived of the invention first, the first one to file their patent application “wins.”
Read Also: What to do when your copyright has been infringed on