What is Copyright?
“Copyright” simply means the right to copy. It is a kind of “property” that results from the intellectual creation of the mind. Like any other property such as moveable property, like cars, and immoveable property such as houses, “copyright” can be transferred, inherited and disposed of in any way by the copyright owner. However, copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, pro
cedures, methods or such things as names or titles.
Copyright laws grant the creator the exclusive right to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute, perform and display the work publicly. Exclusive means only the creator of such work, not anybody who has access to it and decides to grab it.
The purpose of copyright is to allow creators to gain economic rewards for their efforts and so encourage future c
reativity and the development of new material which benefits us all. Copyright material is usually the result of creative skill and/or significant labour and/or investment, and without protection, it would often be very easy for others to exploit material without paying the creator.
Most uses of copyright material therefore require permission from the copyright owner. However there are exceptions to copyright, so that some minor uses may not infringe copyright.
Copyright protection is automatic as soon as there is a record in any form of the material that has been created, and there is no official registration or form or fee. But creators can take certain steps to help prove that material is theirs. Copyright protection in Ghana is governed by Act 690 of 2005. (Material protected by copyright is termed a "work".)
What works are Protected by Copyright?
Works protected by copyright covers published and unpublished literary, scientific and artistic works, whatever the form of expression, provided such works are fixed in a tangible or material form. This means that if you can see it, hear it and/or touch it - it may be protected. If it is an essay, if it is a play, if it is a song, if it is a funky original dance move, if it is a photograph, HTML coding or a computer graphic that can be set on paper, recorded on tape or saved to a hard drive, it may be protected.
The Copyright Law
- Literary works such as books, poems, novels, stories, stage direction, and broadcasting scripts.
- Artistic works such as paintings, drawings, photograph, maps, and sculpture.
- Musical works.
- Sound recording.
- Audiovisual works.
- Choreographic works.
- Derivative works.
- Programme-carrying signals.
- Works of folklore.
- Computer software.
When does Copyright Protection begin, and what is required?
Copyright protection begins when any of the above described work is actually created.
- It must be original in character.
- It must be written down, recorded or expressed in any material form.
- It must be created by a Ghanaian or any person resident in Ghana.
- It must first be published in Ghana. When published outside Ghana it must subsequently be published in Ghana within thirty days.
- Works in respect of which Ghana has an obligation under international treaties to grant protection such as Berne convention also enjoy copyright in Ghana.
The Copyright Office
The copyright office is the agency responsible in Ghana for the implementation of the copyright act of 2005, act 690. Since its establishment in 2005. The copyright office performs the following functions towards the discharge of its functions under the law.
- Register copyright works, production and publication
- Mediate in copyright disputes
- Administer works of Ghanaian folklore with the assistance of the national folklore board of trustees
- Administers works in the public domain.
- Provides advice on copyright issues.
- Organize seminars, conferences, fora etc. to educate the general populace and copyright owners in particular on their rights and obligations under the law.
- Conduct activities to combat piracy of copyright works.
The Rights of the Copyright Owner?
Copyright gives the creator of a wide range of material, such as literature, art, music, sound recordings, films and broadcasts, economic rights enabling them to control use of their material in a number of ways, such as by making cop
suing copies to the public, performing in public, broadcasting and use on-line. i.e.
- Reproduce the work
- To translate, arrange, adapt or transform the work in any way.
- To communicate the work to the public by performance, broadcasting and other means.
- To rent the works.
- To distribute the work.
Additionally it is only the copyright holder who can authorize others to exploit the work commercially.
Furthermore, copyright gives the owner moral rights to be identified as the creator of certain kinds of material, and to object to distortion or mutilation of it. i.e.
- Be named as the owner of the work,
- Alter the work,
- Prevent others from using the work in a way that would be prejudicial to his or her reputation.
When does Copyright Protection end, or expire?
The Berne Convention establishes a general and minimum period that lasts the life of the author and fifty years after his (or her) death. Cinematographic works and photographic works have a minimum period of protection of 50 and 25 years upon the date of creation, respectively. This applies to any country that has signed the Berne Convention, and these are just the minimum periods of protection. A member country is entitled to establish greater periods of protection, but never less than what has been established by the Berne Convention.
In Ghana, Copyright subsists during the life of the copyright holder and seventy years after his or her death.in respect of published works; copyright protection subsists for a period of seventy years from the date of first publication. Works of Ghanaian folklore however exist in perpetuity in the republic of Ghana.
In a case where Copyright vest in more than one person, the duration of copyright protection is 70 years after the death of the last surviving holder.
As facilitators of the communication of copyright works to the public the rights of performers and producers of neighbour on copyright.
- A performer as the right to authorize and to prevent others from recording or communicating his or her performance to the public.
- The producer of the phonogram also has the right to authorize and prevent others from reproducing the phonogram for commercial purposes.
Obligation of a Producer of a Phonogram
The producer of a phonogram i.e. cassette or compact disc (CD) is required under the copyright act to provide adequate information on the label of the phonogram to identify himself or herself, the musical tracks on the album and the contribution of the work.
This requires that a producer states on the label of the phonogram:
- The name of the author and the main performers
- The title of the work
- The year of the first publication of the work
- The name of distinguishing marks of the producer.
Infringement of Copyright
Generally speaking, copyright is infringed where a work protected by copyright is used in any of the following ways without the permission of the copyright owner:
- Reproduced, duplicated, extracted or imported into Ghana for commercial purposes
- Distributed for sale in Ghana
- Exhibited for commercial purposes.
No infringement of copyright however occurs where the authorized use of the work is for purposes of teaching, research, or by way of quotation.
Remedies for Copyright Infringement
A person whose copyright is infringed may:
- Petition the Minister or Copyright Administrator for the settlement of such dispute by Arbitration.
- Institute criminal proceedings against offender who may on conviction be liable to pay a fine not more than one thousand penalty units and not less than five hundred penalty units or a term of imprisonment of not more than three years or both; and in the case of continuing offence to a further fine of not less than twenty-five penalty units and not more than one hundred penalty units for each day during which the offence continues.
- Institute proceedings in the high court for an injunction to stop the continuing of infringement. Civil proceedings can also be instituted where there is imminent danger that the work would be infringed to prevent the infringement. Both civil and criminal proceedings can be instituted simultaneously.
For further information contact
The Copyright Office
Private Mail Bag
Ministries Post Office
Accra – Ghana
Tel: (233-21)224282 / 229190
Next to the Teacher’s Hall Complex