Samuel Abu
3 min readJun 16, 2021

Images, images, images! Someday I might be a photographer.

I admire the creative industry and recently I had to explain briefly about the Intellectual property a photographer owns in their work. I will have a quick look at the Copyright Act and some international treaties as a reference point in the course of this discourse. A few more lines and I am done.

Copyright is a collection of rights that automatically vest to someone who creates an original work of authorship like a literary work, song, movie, or software. These rights include the right to reproduce the work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies, and to perform and display the work publicly. There are two major rights under copyright being the Moral Rights (Right to attribution and integrity) and Economic Rights ( Right to reproduce, sell, broadcast, display, etc)

Further, under section 1&2, Copyright Act 2004 LFN, a photographic work falls under the category of eligible works to be copyrighted and like all eligible works, it need not be registered before copyright is conferred on it.

Duration of Copyright work varies according to municipal laws but the Berne Convention grants a minimum of 25 years after the making of the work. In Nigeria, under the First Schedule of the Copyright Act, the duration of protection is for Seventy years from the end of the year in which the author dies.

We agree that the copyright protection of photographic work vests in the author, but there are exceptions to this. One major exception to this is the principle of “Work for Hire” I must also clarify that these exceptions relate to economic rights and not moral rights. Moral rights are generally inalienable.

The Work for Hire simply states that the employer who has pumped resources for the project’s success is deemed the owner of a work. He or she has employed the services of the employee to implement the work. The photographer is an employee hired to take photographs for an employer. A photojournalist employed by a newspaper is an example of Work-for-Hire. However, a wedding or portrait photographer hired for one specific event is not Work-for-Hire.

Another exception is where a contract has been executed by both parties to make the specific work be recognized as work for hire. In both instances, the Photographer is deemed to have expressly, and by operation of law, transferred/ assigned copyright to the employer or hirer. As a photographer take note that your works having been expressed in a medium is eligible for protection. You can take it a step further by working on an identifier or logo that accompanies your work. You have the right to submit your works for grants and promotional use, you basically have the right to exploit the moral and economic rights in your work.

Finally, when you have a contract placed before you regarding your images and works, do well to contact a seasoned Intellectual Property to look through, review and advise you on the course of action to take.

That’s a wrap!



Samuel Abu

A sucker for stories and stuffs I find interesting. I bare my thoughts here. Don't stay too long, you might lose track of time.