Abimbola Balogun – Position Of Commissioned Photographers under The Nigerian Copyright Law

Abimbola Balogun – Position Of Commissioned Photographers under The Nigerian Copyright Law

So I somehow walked into
an argument with a friend of mine the other day of which the true and current
position on the topic has been on my mind for a few days now. I really Don’t
remember how that happened but the issue sent me into a frenzy as I really hate
to loose arguments. Here is how I got myself into the argument.  So I just
finally got my wedding album from my fantastic photographer and I was really
impressed with the turnout as I was frankly scared that it would not look as
dreamy as I had pictured in my mind (brides and their outlandish fantasy ideas
right) so I didn’t waste any time to whip out my new priced possession albums
for my guests to view on one fine Thursday evening. 

To my greatest pleasure,
my guests were as impressed as I was when I first saw the albums. As they
flipped through the pages of the albums many different topics ensued from each
picture. From how hilarious a particular picture turned out; to how the
photographer’s skills were beautifully displayed when she captured “emotions”.
All small talk was warm and very welcome to massage my growing ego until one of
my guests said and I quote “do you know that the photographer owns the
copyright on your pictures?” basically she could do what she pleases with my
pictures. I thought that idea was ridiculous and I did not hesitate to mouth
out that fact. I knew that we had moved from small talk to big business. The
room was instantly heated up in arguments and legal talk on what does or should
apply. I against guest and my husband trying to be diplomatic by trying to see
the sense in both views. Of course myself and guests did not budge on our own
lawyerly opinions on the issue.
 My Guest opined that
when a photographer takes shots, he/she as the author of that image has the
copyright on the pictures over and above any other. This is regardless of if
the pictures have been paid for. I thought this idea was weird and ridiculous.
How can I pay for someone to do a job and the person still can hold on to
rights of my own personal images that I paid to be taken?
 The night ended
quite pleasantly; warm hugs and kisses goodnight, but silently I knew this
argument was definitely not over.
I tried to forget about
the argument for a couple of days, but as I said I really hate to loose
arguments. So I went on my own literal photobomb expedition.
While on my research I
stumbled on the American copyright article which agreed 100% with my guest’s
position[1]. The author states that Under U.S. copyright law, the original
owner of a created work is exclusively the creator, unless it’s a ‘work for
hire’. The author therein stated that in the wedding scenario, a photographer
is hardly ever ‘for hire,’ Even though married couples spend thousands for a
photographer to cast their most memorable moments in just the right light, they
may never actually own the results and also, the fact that the photographer
hands you a cd, hard copy, or soft copy of pictures taken of you does not mean
he has handed you the rights to those pictures. Hmmm interesting I thought to
myself, but still confused; plus, that one is the Americana situation; so back
to Nigerian scenario to find something that makes more legal sense to me or at
least someone or something that could explain this crazy phenomenon to me.
It also occurred to me
that I have come across this topic a number of times in the past but I lazily
brushed aside the thought of researching the crux of the matter. For instance,
the 2face and Annie Idibia suit of 2013, where the an un-commissioned and
uninvited photographer took wedding photos of 2face and his bride[2]. Secondly;
a client of mine who also happens to be in the entertainment industry had
complained to me about his photographer who had uploaded pictures recently
taken on social media as publicity for his photography career. This was done
without any recourse to my client and even before he had seen the said
pictures. And oh thirdly, back to my wedding album, one of my photographer’s
crew members had uploaded some very nice shots of the wedding for publicity on
her Instagram page (Of course I immediately demanded that he takes down the
shots before I blink my eyes). These are only a few incidents out of the
thousands that occur on a daily basis in the new era of the growing photography
So now to answer this
lingering question of where the copyright stands with commissioned/hired/paid
photographers in Nigeria, I have cast away the spirit of laziness and
procrastination and buried my face first to the copyright act itself, my
findings made me smile in 8 different ways. inside smile, outside smile, evil
smile, happy smile, confused smile, wide smile, one sided smile, haahahaaa I
told u so smile. (yes, 8 different types of smiles).
conferred by sections 2 and 3 of this Act, shall vest initially in the author.
(2) Notwithstanding
subsection (6) of section 10 of this Act where a work-
  • is commissioned by a person who is not
    the author’s employer under a contract of service or apprenticeship; or
  • not having been so commissioned, is
    made in the course of the author’s employment,
the copyright shall
belong in the first instance to the author, unless otherwise stipulated in
writing under contract.
(3) Where a
literary, artistic or musical work is made by the author in the course of his
employment by the proprietor of a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical
under a contract of service or apprenticeship as is so made for the purpose of
publication in a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical, the said proprietor
shall, in the absence of ]any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of
copyright in the work in so far as the copyright relates to the publication of
the work in any newspaper, magazine or similar periodical,; or to the
reproduction of the work for the purpose of its been so published; but in all
other respects, the author shall be the first owner of the copyright in the
(4) In the
case of a cinematograph film or sound recording, the author shall be obliged to
conclude, prior to the making of the work, contracts in writing with all those
whose works are to be used in the making of the work.
Now here’s were the
confused smile and happy smile came in. I had to read this provision about 10
times to get the gist. (legislative drafters right). So here’s how I see this
In Nigeria the
photographer owns the copyright to pictures he has taken as a general rule.
However, the following situations are exceptions to this rule.
where a photograph is taken under an apprenticeship relationship, the rights of
the photograph belongs to the trainer or master.
in this case
section 10(3) of the copyright act stipulates that the rights to such works
belong to the proprietor in the absence of any contrary agreement in so far as
publication is concerned.
reference to section 10 (1)(2)(a) (which I had to read really
slowly, and aloud several times).
And here is where I had my fifty shades
of smiles; “… commissioned by a person who is not the author’s employer
under a contract of service or apprenticeship; or… the copyright shall belong
in the first instance to the author, unless otherwise stipulated in writing
under contract.”
Where a photographer is an employee of a company
instructed to take the photos or is an employee whose duties include or require
photography, the photographer will be acting on behalf of his employer, and as
such the copyright in photographs taken by the employee in the normal course of
business will belong to the employer. In simpler words, a work done by a
commissioned person or employee belongs to the employer or
photographer may assign his copyright by written agreement. This will supersede
the provisions of the law. If there is a written contract or an agreement
signed by the photographer assigning copyright to another party, then the
rights will be deemed to belong to the assignee.
shall be conferred by this section on every work, which is eligible for
copyright and is made by or under the direction or control of the Government, a
State authority or prescribed international body. Such rights are conferred on
the Government on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The 1st schedule to the copyright act provides that an author of a photograph
can exercise exclusive rights on his photo for a period of 50 years after the
end of the year in which the work was first published., after which he looses
the exclusive right on the said work.
where I have commissioned the services of the photographer, I am the employer
of the photographer’s services under a service agreement, the rights on my
photographs and album belongs to me. And yes I had to ponder on the issue of
the; “Of or For Service”. I found the key word to be
“Commission” as contained in Section 10 of the Copyright Act; my
interpretation is that once someone has paid for the service of the
photographer under a contract of any nature, without an agreement stating that
the right will belong to the photographer, such rights will be vested in the
commissioning party. Therefore, whether you employ the photographer under a
contract of service or employ the services of the photographer for a specific
purpose, this law will apply[4].
Nigerian case law further
buttressed this point in the case of Joseph Ikhuoria v. Campaign Services
Ltd and Anor[5]
, the court noted that when a person commissions the
taking of a photograph or the painting or drawing of a portrait or undertakes
an engraving and pays or agrees to pay for it in money’s worth and the work is
made in pursuance of that commission, the person who so commissioned the work
is entitled to any copyright in it as an original work. See also Kolade
Oshinowo v John Holt Group Co [1986] FHCR 308
On this same point in my
research journey, I also found a very interesting post online which I totally
align myself with. It said in summary that although when the photos are taken,
the photographer owns the copyright to the photos. The writer further made a
distinction between license and other rights. He stated that the licence
represents the leave to reprint (i.e., use the photos for personal use, such as
on Christmas cards or in a wedding photo book), for which the photographer may
charge an extra fee. This is so for the sole reason that the photographer will
lose out on the money that you would have paid for the prints. All other rights
are purchased off the photographer upon the payment of the fees. The
photographer however is free to charge an extra and separate fee for the
release of all the rights as mentioned in a contract[6]. But to me, I know I
will only agree to a payment of extra charges if the photographer is Madame TY
As regards the 2face and
Annie Idibia matter mentioned above, I think this is an issue of facts which
will be discussed another day where the issues for determination will be
whether or not a photographer can claim copyright on an unauthorised or
illegally acquired photograph, or the copyright for paparazzi, I’ll find a
catchy name (Watch out for part 2).
Therefore, ladies and
gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I state that in my firm opinion that,
my husband and I own our beautiful wedding photos, album, and all rights
connected thereto. As I said, I hate to lose an argument.
viewed 13th July 2016. Who Owns Copyright under the Nigerian Copyright Act; by
Meshack Okezi
[5] F.H.C.R. 308 1986, http://news.nlipw.com/?p=19254
viewed 11th August 2012,
Impact of the World Trade
Organisation TRIPS Agreement on the Intellectual Property Law of Nigeria; by
Temitope Oredola Oloko; http://repository.up.ac.za/dspace/bitstream/handle/2263/53216/Oloko_Impact_2015.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y;
viewed 11th August 2013
by steven Portland; viewed 11th august 2016.

Ed’s Note – This article
was originally posted here
Photo Credit – www.guardian.ng
What you should know before signing a contract (Part 2)

What you should know before signing a contract (Part 2)

This is the 2nd
post in a series of articles on contract. The first article defined contracts
while this post will be examining the terms and contents of contracts
Terms of contracts can be
described as the rights and obligations of parties under the contract. For
instance, under a tenancy agreement, a term of the contract is for the tenant
to pay rent, another term is for the landlord to deliver the premises in
tenable condition. 

A term of contract may be
express. i.e. written out expressly in the contract while others may be
implied. i.e. it can be read into a contract though it is not expressly written
out in the contract. For instance under a contract to supply frozen chicken, it
is usually an express term to state the number of cartons of chicken the buyer
requires, however it may be implied into the contract that the seller must
deliver them in good condition, probably in a cooling van in other to keep them
in good condition and not with the cartons dripping with murky defrosted water
and chicken pieces falling out of the cartons. 
No matter what the
contract is for, either a contract to merge companies, buy a property, a
recording contract or a contract of employment. Understanding what terms are express
and those that can be implied into a contract is essential for all parties. As everyone
must know and understand their respective duties and obligations under the contract.
Failure to do this may result in conflict later on, if a party is seeking to
enforce a perceived right under the contract but the other party claims being
not obligated for that right. This may help save you and/or your company from
unwarranted liability. 
With regard to liability,
it is also important to identify if the alleged obligation is an actual term of
the contract or a mere representation. Also,  if it can be implied into the contract. 
The fact that parties must
fully understand the terms of their contract is further expressed by the
Nigerian Supreme Court in Best (Nigeria) Limited v. Blackwood Hodge
(Nigeria) Limited & 2 Ors (2011) 1 -2 SC (Pt I) 55
, where the court
held that –
contract ought to be strictly construed in the light of the essential and material
terms agreed by parties. The court should not allow a party to dribble the
other party”.  
It is recommended that
before you sign an agreement, you evaluate if the terms constitute a valid
contract and all parties are clear of their respective duties and obligations
under the contract. Also, do not hesitate to seek counsel from a legal
practitioner if you need to.
Dunmade Onibokun Esq.
Onibokun & Co.
Dunmade’s legal practice
focuses on corporate and commercial law, regulatory compliance, due diligence,
corporate advice and commercial transactions. 
He is the Principal partner of Adedunmade Onibokun & Co. Dunmade is
also a blogger and publishes the Legalnaija Blawg via www.legalnaija.com
Dunmade Onibokun – Do you have a Contract of Employment?

Dunmade Onibokun – Do you have a Contract of Employment?

are a lot of people reading this post, answering “No” to the above question.
Next is thinking asking why you don’t have one in the first place and wondering
if you are even entitled to one?  
I have met workers who informed me that though they were engaged in various
forms of employments, they did not have written Contracts of Employment neither
had they been provided one by their employers. 

you work in Nigeria and most likely any part of the World. Employers are always
required to provide a contract of employment to their workers. Also by virtue
of the Labour Act, every employer should provide a worker with a copy of the
Contract of employment not later than 3 months after the worker has commenced employment.
The law states in Section 7, that –    
7. (1) Not later than three months
after the beginning of a worker’s period of employment with an employer, the
employer shall give to the worker a written statement specifying-
the name of the employer or group of employers, and where appropriate, of the
undertaking by which the worker is employed;
the name and address of the worker and the place and date of his engagement; 
the nature of the employment;
if the contract is for a fixed term, the date when the contract expires; 
the appropriate period of notice to be given by the party wishing to terminate
the contract, due regard being had to section 11 of this Act;
the rates of wages and method of calculation thereof and the manner and
periodicity of payment of wages; 
any terms and conditions relating to- 
hours of work, or
holidays and holiday pay, or
incapacity for work due to sickness or injury, including any provisions for
sick pay; and
any special conditions of the contract.
Subsection (2) states that if after the date to which the said statement
relates there is a change in the terms to be included or referred to in the
statement the employer shall, not more than one month after the change, inform
the worker of the nature of the change by a written statement; if he does not
leave a copy of the statement with the worker, shall preserve the statement and
ensure that the worker has reasonable opportunities of reading it in the course
of his employment, or that it is made reasonably accessible to the worker in
some other way.
From the above, it’s
essential that workers are provided with copies of their Contracts of
employment according to the provisions of the law. By virtue of Section 21 of
the Act, any employer who breaches the above mentioned law is guilty of an
offence and liable to payment of a fine.
Dunmade Onibokun
Adedunmade Onibokun &
Photo Credit – www.constituitionproject.ie