Theatre And Copyright Law

Project and Seminar Material for Theatre Arts

Theatre And Copyright Law

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Theatre arts as a discipline has been taught over the years in higher institution as an art ,but little or no attention has been given to the legal perspective of the discipline.

Law relates to every discipline including theatre arts. Law is a body of rules enacted to guard, guide and regulate human conduct in any society. Law is about human beings and theatre on the other hand deals with human beings .Both disciplines are concerned with the social life of the people. Oscar Brockett The Theatre an Introduction observes that “Theatre has been considered by, at least some segment of society, to be one of the most effective tools available to human beings in their attempt to understand themselves and their world” (1979:4)

Mineke Schnipper (1982:95) asserts that:

Modern drama attempts to hold a mirror to a people in which they can examine the world. Dramatic expression can serve to order and control society to ensure the survival of the species and modify and influence the society positively for the desired change.

From the above it means that theatre shows the people how they are, how they ought to be, and how to go about becoming what they ought to be. Law on the other hand stipulates sanctions and regulate human conduct so that the society can become what it ought to be, to achieve societal cohesiveness and social harmony.

Law and theatre complement each other in the people’s quest for meaningful co-existence. Both disciplines share same goal which is the perpetuation of a well cultured society in which every member seeks to maintain the norms and values by which the society is identified.

To this end the essence of knowing the law is for the theatre artiste to know his right and the bounds within which he can operate in order not to infringe in another person’s right and also to know when his right has been infringed upon. Knowing the law also makes the theatre artiste know the choice to make to protect his right and what remedy to seek when any wrong has been occasioned against him.

1.2 Objectives of the Study

This study seeks to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Checkmate plagiarism in the theatre practice
  2. Review the remedies of copyright infringement.
  3. Critically examine the law of copyright.
  4. Determine the effect of the copyright law
  5. Examine the consequences on defaulters.

1.3 Rationale for the Study

The law and the theatre are synonymous in relation to their functions. The law is meant to be executed on defaulting members of the society while theatre mirrors the society. Both are concerned with the socio-political life of the people.

It is paramount for the theatre artiste and every citizen to note the extent of his right as well as where others begin. Several researches have been done in the theatre but not much attention has been given to its law. Hence this study seeks to fill the gap

1.4 Significance of the Study

This study is an in-exhaustive one and it is significant to Nigeria citizens especially theatre artiste because it tends to create awareness of the copyright law, what it entails and the punishable measures meted on defaulters. It equally serves as a source of research to other scholars who may want to delve into the same area of study.

1.5 Methodology of the Study

In this research work, the literary methodology which is also known as analytical method is exclusively used. This is because most of the findings are from printed materials, textbooks, journals etcetera. In addition the historical methodology is used to tell the history of copyright, also documented in printed materials.

1.6 Scope of the Study

This research work discuses three areas of the law that directly affect the practice of theatre arts. The two areas of the law are; copyright law, piracy and plagiarism. This study discuses copyright in all its encompassment and it also covers plagiarism.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary

Copyright law grants exclusive rights to the rights holder to control the use or otherwise of their works. It is important for right-holders such as producers to have a good understanding of existing copyright law to enable them effectively apply and enforce the law. The law without actual enforcement is of no use to those it seeks to protect and thus the need for right holders to understand the basic principle in copyright law and how it affect them as well as how they can use the law to their advantage.

Copyright law protects the right of right holders in sectors such as film, book publishing, music, visual arts, among others. It is law which if properly administered and enforced is of great value to right holder as well users of copyright protected works. Unfortunately there are instances, where right holders in the entertainment industry hardly understand what copyright is about. This affects the ability of producers to optimize on their creativity. In many instances emphasis is on contract law with little reference to copyright matters. Lack or limited knowledge of copyright and related rights inhibits the growth of copyright industries. In other instances, copyright owners such as producers will only refer to copyright in cases of infringement of their rights. Copyright protect the original expression of ideas and not the ideas themselves.

The converging market of information technology, media/entertainment and telecommunication are expected to become the world’s single largest industry. These copyright industries may have moved centre-stage to dominate the economies of nations but their existence is threatened by privacy and counterfeiting which have now reached epidemic proportions.

5.2 Conclusion

For any nation to progress economically, it must not play down the development of its intellectual resources. The only way to ensure the protection of original intellectual works is by tightening provisions for the safeguard of copyright products and especially, liberalizing provisions in the extant copyright laws of the country to be able to accommodate products derived from the rapidly growing technology in the world. In Nigeria, the position of the country as Africa’s largest market for copyrighted works has given us a bad name in the international community as the major hub of the global digital and software piracy. In this research project, I have examined why Nigeria still retains such bad credentials for copyright protection in spite of having an extant law on the subject matter in the country. I equally recommended measures that could be taken to help reverse the present deplorable state and enforcement of our Copyright Act in the protection of copyright works.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the world has witnessed astronomical advancement in scientific and technological innovations which have changed the face of modern society, leading many thinkers to term this present civilization ‘the jet age’. This technological advancement has had enormous impact on the world’s legal systems, disrupting traditional modes of protection of intellectual property, and has left the law completely in a state of flux, due to the ever changing forms of innovations; such as computers including palmtops and hi-tech phones, satellite and cable receivers/signals, facsimile transmissions and the perpetually growing internet. In Nigeria, the Copyright Act purports to protect intellectual property including digital innovations. Notwithstanding, the country remains the largest piracy destination and market in the world. Attention is particularly paid to the problem of the skeletal nature of the Act with respect to the rights of innovators of digital technology and other shrewd and manifests ambiguities and contradictions contained in it.

It is very important to mention the technological shortcomings which have made it possible for infringers of artistic works, digital inventions, and other forms of works protected under the Copyright Act to assail the technology with impunity, and therefore make it impossible for our Copyright Act to live up to its mandate.

5.3 Recommendations

Due to the shortcomings found in the Nigerian copyright industry which have made it possible for infringers of copyright works to assail the copyright industry with impunity, and therefore makes it impossible for our Copyright Act to live up to its mandate. Thus in the struggle again piracy and copyright infringement, it is recommended that extra legal measures, such as administrative, social, judicial and technological measures to tame the tide of an otherwise purely social-legal problem. If we never do anything which has never been done before, we shall never get anywhere, the law will stand still whilst the rest of the world goes on and that will be bad for both Lord Denning.
Having examined the shortcomings and challenges facing our copyright legal framework, it is my opinion that something urgent needs to be done to salvage the situation and this has to do with adopting significant measures which would come under five major headings: technological measures, legislative measures, administrative measures, social measures, and judicial measures.

Technological Measures

In the area of digital broadcast by cable and satellite transmission, it is my opinion that the various cable operators in the country should adopt any one of the following measures to restrict the unauthorized use of their transmission:

  1. They could adopt the use of digital signature and key encryption, such that only receivers which are legitimate would be given the activation code to decipher the encrypted work.
  2. The Nigerian government should enact a law ensuring that every television set sold in the country must contain a “V-chip” currently used in America by virtue of the Satellite Improvement Act of 1999.

With respect to computer software, the best measure of protection is by adopting a technology created by a software expert on behalf of his firm Info Logic Software Incorporation and modified in 2009. This technology is called the ‘software envelope’, and refers to a situation where copyright works are transmitted in an encrypted form into a single envelope such that automatic messages are sent to a central authorizing site at regular intervals. Each time a user starts to use copyrighted work, a reply is sent back to the central authorising site for authorization to continue or a denial of authorization. By this technology, the central authorizing site would detect when a computer software is about to be used in a manner prejudicial to the right of the copyright owner. This kind of technology would be most appropriate in Nigeria, even though we are yet to develop the requite infrastructure that would support such an elaborate detective mechanism.

Legislative Measures

Separate legislative measures should be enacted to cater for the increasingly new species of copyright infringement. In the process of enactment of these new legislative measures, wide consultations, especially with experts in the fields of information technology, copyright and computer technology should be made, in order to effectively acquire the technical knowledge that would expose the intricacies involved in violation of various species of copyright.

The enactments should also create more regulatory bodies which would be charged with the responsibilities of ensuring the enforcement of the legislative measure and laws. A body like the National Broadcasting Commission should be recruited into this fight as well as the National Information Development Agency and the Nigerian Communications Commission. The Nigerian legislature should also domesticate the various international instruments on copyright protection of digital innovations in line with section 12 of 1999 Constitution.

Administrative Measures

A good law without effective administrative enforcement mechanism is an effort in futility, consequently because of the fact that enforcement of copyright remains the basis of the protection for the varied hybrid of digital and computer technologies, the Nigerian Copyright Commission should adopt adequate administrative measures for protection of copyright in digital works.

The Nigerian government should work assiduously with various international organizations concerned with digital works like the Business Software Alliance as well as the market authorities and trade unions to ensure that any infringing copies of computer software and other digital innovations are confiscated and adequate reprisals meted out to all who contributed in the infringement.

Social Measures

These measures encompass all those measures to be adopted that involve the populace. The foremost of these measures is enlightenment and awareness campaigns that will be taken down to the grassroot level. This can be achieved through various commercial ringlets and advertisements in radio and television broadcasts in a way that a layman on the street would understand. Emphasis should equally be laid on the perils associated with the use of such pirated products as opposed to the benefits that accrue to the users of genuine software and digital works.

The Nigerian Copyright Commission should also establish a social helpline that would enable an ordinary Nigerian to report seemingly cases of copyright infringement and monetary compensation should be attached if the infringement proved at the end of the day.

Judicial Measures

Owing to the intricate nature of copyright, the federal government should set up an administrative tribunal or an arbitration panel or even a separate court that would be saddled with the responsibility of discharging urgently issues relating to copyright infringement. An administrative panel would be more appropriate in handling issues concerning copyright, which would also make room for invitation of experts to adjudicate in particular areas of copyright requiring expert knowledge.

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