Protect the Work of Your Brain: Ayo Sogunro Advises on How to Protect Your Intellectual Property

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Lilian Ezejelue

The year 2016 started with lots of drama, fights and accusations among celebrities. One of such drama was between former music group mates Blackface and 2face. Blackface accused 2face of stealing his song ‘Let somebody love you’ which was one of the songs in 2face’s Ascension album and threatened to charge him to court.

In the same January 2016, there was also the case of DammyKrane  accusing Wizkid of stealing from him. Dami Marshall, a lawyer and daughter of the musician, K1,took sides with DamiKrane and threatened to take the case further, informing that she was pursuing a Masters degree in Intellectual Property law and also had evidence to prove Dami Krane’s allegations were true.

But before all of that was the famous plagiarism accusation leveled against the Nigerian blogging giant, Linda Ikeji. So many other bloggers and photographers accused Ms.Ikeji of stealing their content. This almost cost her career and made many Nigerians, especially bloggers who are in the habit of copying and pasting contents without giving credit, to be aware of intellectual theft and its consequences.

After the effort of creating something new or improving on an old one, the last thing any content creator (artist, designer, writer…) wants is to have their invention stolen by another.

Intellectual property theft is a palpable fear that keeps creative people from sharing their creations and in certain extreme cases bars them from creating at all only to have someone else take the credit.

Intellectual property is just as valuable as our material property, sometimes even more, and needs to be protected the same way we protect other things we consider valuable.

26th of April has been set aside by the United Nations as the World Intellectual Property Day and to mark this year’s world Intellectual Property Day we are looking at how people can protect their Intellectual Property from theft.

Ayo Sogunro, a trained lawyer, author and social critic was kind enough to grant an interview and shed light on what can be done to protect our Intellectual Properties. Steps to take in case of theft are also discussed below.

What constitutes Intellectual Property theft?

Intellectual property can be stolen in a diverse number of ways. This is called infringement. Basically, infringements can occur when one person uses intellectual property without permission from the owner, or when the person passes off the intellectual property as theirs.

Is there any situation when it is wise and beneficial to let your Intellectual Property be used by someone else, say someone with a larger platform, without your permission?

Different people have different goals. For example, in the case of literary content, some wants to spread knowledge to a wide audience and so they encourage sharing of their works; while others want to make money from their work and so they are restrictive. These are both fine but, in either case, permission is central. A bigger platform that uses content without permission can do harm to smaller platforms in the long run if it is not cautioned.

How can content creators protect their Intellectual Property from being stolen?

Content creators can: (1) register their content where required; (2) enter into express contracts or non-disclosure agreements with those who they plan to share the content with; (3) and issue licenses or give notices of restrictions on/permissible use of the content. Most importantly, (4) they can hire an intellectual property solicitor to advise them.

What legal steps can a content creator take to protect their Intellectual Property from being stolen?

There is an automatic legal protection for works that fall under copyrights. However, the Nigerian Copyrights Commission operates a voluntary registration scheme as a database of copyrighted works in Nigeria. For patents, designs and trade/service marks, protection is not automatic and they have to be registered to receive any protection.

What legal steps can a content creator take if their Intellectual Property is stolen?

Hiring an intellectual property lawyer to handle the issue is the most appropriate step. It is prudent not to complicate the situation through self-help.

How do you, as a writer and lawyer, keep your Intellectual Property protected?

I protect my writings under Creative Commons licences–freely available on the internet. The CC licenses are based on the concept of “some rights reserved” instead of the usual “all rights reserved”. It tries to balance between sharing in an IT era and protecting the rights of creators.

For example, the CC licence on my blog ayosogunro.com/contact-me-copy-rightly/  allows people to copy and use content from my blog freely as long as it is not for commercial purposes. Because there is an express license on the blog, it is easier to sue anyone who violates the terms of the licence.

What advice do you have for content creators who are reluctant to share content for fear of theft?

The best defence against theft is publicity. It is more difficult to steal a well known creation. Even in the case of patents, designs and trademarks, secrecy is disadvantageous in the long run. To receive protection, the creator has to register and take advantage of the work as quickly as possible. Also, in the case of patents, sharing the data with the public through the government registry is a part of the deal for legal protection.

There you have it. Do not let the fear of the theft of your Intellectual Properties keep you from sharing them to the world, instead take measures to protect what is yours and get the best value out of them.

Happy World Intellectual Property Day!

Lilian Ezejelue is a broadcast journalist with MAP NEWS TELEVISION…an online & broadcast media. She Tweets @lilydawordsmith

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