Music Licensing & Copyright in Nigeria

Mathew Ekundayo - Admin

The Music Licensing and copyright system is designed to reward those who have devoted their time and resources to producing original content—it seeks to balance the individual and communal interests by granting an individual copyright owner proprietary rights and by protecting their work from unlicensed exploitation or use for a particular period of time after which the proprietary right expires and the work becomes available in the public domain for public use.

A lot of people don’t know that some actual rules and regulations guide creative works and that the infringement on the copyright of a creative is an offense. This article will throw light on the concept of copyright in the Nigerian music industry, and point out the different ways in which a person can infringe on the copyright of another.


What is a Music Copyright?

Whenever a musician creates a piece of music, there are two music copyrights created. The first copyright is the authorship or musical composition of the song, consisting of the melody and lyrics. The second is what is commonly referred to as the “master recording” or, more simply, the recorded music track.

The owner of the copyright, or the musician, has exclusive rights to their work. Understanding your copyright protection is vital to making sure that no one uses your music unlawfully. As long as you are the sole owner and creator, you are the only one that can give rights to allow authorized parties to reproduce, distribute, or publicly perform or display that music.


What is Music Licensing?

Music Licensing is simply the transfer of exclusive or non-exclusive rights, authorization, or permission to another person, permitting them to reproduce, publish, perform, make translations or adaptations, broadcast, or distribute a musical composition or sound recording for commercial purposes, usually for a period of time. In practical terms, music licensing can be likened to renting one’s song or sound recording to third parties.

In copyright law, the copyright owner of a song or sound recording is solely granted these rights to commercially exploit the song or sound recording to the exclusion of others. However, the copyright owner (the licensor) may decide to license the exploitation of one or more of these rights to another person (the licensee) in return for royalties, a lump-sum payment, or some form of compensation (either monetary or non-monetary). The commercial exploitation of a song or sound recording without license or authorization from the copyright owner amounts to copyright infringement.

A licensing agreement is usually required to facilitate the transfer of rights over musical works. Where a music license is granted, ownership rights remain vested in the copyright owner (licensor), while the other party (licensee) now has the legal authority to exercise some or all of the artist’s rights to such extent as is allowed in the license agreement between the parties.

A music license could either be an exclusive license or a non-exclusive license. An exclusive license means a license signed by or on behalf of a copyright owner, authorizing the licensee to the exclusion of all other persons (including the person granting the license), to exercise any right which would otherwise be exercisable exclusively by the copyright owner. Exclusive Licensees may sue for the enforcement of copyrights in the licensed works without joining the copyright owner as a party to the suit.

On the hand, a non-exclusive license enables the licensor to continue exploiting his exclusive rights or transfer these rights to other third parties. A non-exclusive license cannot be transferred without the prior express consent of the copyright owner (licensor).

Apart from being an exclusive or non-exclusive license, there are other forms of classifying music licenses. Each license leads to corresponding rights and royalties.



Types of Music Licenses


  1. Master License and Mechanical License: A master license is granted by the owner of the master recording (masters) in a sound recording to another person who intends to commercially exploit the sound recording. Sometimes, the artiste or songwriter owns the rights to the masters but usually, these rights over masters are signed off by the initial copyright owner to the record label. Consequently, when seeking to use the sound recording, one has to negotiate a masters license with the record label in control of the artiste’s masters and pay the label, the agreed master’s royalty. Similarly, a mechanical license is required when one intends to commercially reproduce the sound recording in an audio format e.g. CDs, ring-back tunes, digital downloads, and streaming.

    Mechanical royalties are paid to the copyright owner for the recording, manufacture, reproduction, and distribution of protected works. While in some jurisdictions these are statutorily stipulated, in Nigeria these rates are normally fixed by the collecting societies in the absence of directly negotiated rates between owners and those who may seek to cover or utilize these rights.

  1. Synchronisation License: This license grants a licensee the right to synchronise either the musical composition or sound recording with visual media. For instance, where a movie, video game, or TV commercial is to be made using the composition or sound recording, a synchronization license will be required. A synchronization license is also required where the composition or sound recording is to be used in another form e.g. a re-recording, cover, or sampling. A synchronization royalty is paid in this instance to copyright owners in the requisite works used.
  2. Broadcast or Performance License: This is granted to the licensee to enable them to perform, stream, record or play the sound recording in public via radio, tv, in concerts, or at parties. Usually, the services of Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) like MCSON, are employed to grant, negotiate, administer, and recover performance licenses and royalties.
  3. Print License: Here, the licensee is granted the rights to transcribe or print physical copies of musical notes or lyrics of the musical work and distribute the same. Print Licenses are majorly required for the commercial exploitation of sheet music.


Duration of Copyright in Nigeria

As obtainable in most countries, the NCA stipulates the duration within which copyright in works subsists before the work goes into the public domain, at which point it may be exploited by anyone without consequences. What this means is, unlike such other intellectual property rights as a trademark—which when maintained can last indefinitely—copyright is not a perpetual right.

According to Paragraph 1 of the NCA’s First Schedule, copyright in literary, musical, or artistic works other than photographs remains in force for 70 years after the year of the author’s death. (If the copyright is owned by an organization or a corporate entity, it lasts 70 years after the end of the year the work was first published.)

Copyright in cinematography films and photographs lasts for 50 years after the end of the year in which the work was first published; copyright in sound recordings lasts 50 years after the end of the year in which the recording was first made, and copyright in broadcasts lasts 50 years after the end of the year in which the broadcasting first took place. For anonymous literary, artistic, or musical works, copyright subsists for 70 years after the end of the year the work was first published.



Music Licensing under the Nigerian Copyright Act

Artists are entitled to some form of compensation every time their musical work or sound recording is exploited in a public and/or commercial setting by such entities as hotels, clubs, TV stations, etc. Unfortunately, there seems to be a general lack of awareness among artists as to how their copyright can be effectively exploited in order to generate a sustained stream of revenue.

Specifically, a music copyright license is legal permission to utilize music in instances where such utilization would otherwise result in infringement. Where a music license is granted, ownership rights remain vested in the artist (licensor), while the other party (licensee) now has the legal authority to exercise some or all of the artist’s rights to such extent as is allowed in the license agreement between the parties.

A license may be exclusive or non-exclusive: The NCA defines an exclusive license as a license “signed by or on behalf of a copyright owner, authorizing the licensee to the exclusion of all other persons (including the person granting the license), to exercise any right which would otherwise be exercisable exclusively by the copyright owner”. A non-exclusive license usually entails an arrangement that allows the grant of license to more than one licensee—over the same work—consecutively or simultaneously.

Where a licensing arrangement exists, the licensee has the duty to provide commercial or financial consideration. This may be in the form of royalties or lump sum payments. A lump sum payment is usually made once a license is granted. It reflects the value of the right being purchased.

There are different types of music royalties: Mechanical royalties are generated from the digital and physical reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works; synchronization royalties are revenue generated from the pairing of copyrighted music with visual media; and public performance royalties are revenue generated from copyrighted works performed, recorded or played in public.

Although there is an optimistic expectation that the Nigerian music industry will continue to grow, artists must also give some attention to the legal and economic aspects of their business. For artists, it is not enough to be simply talented; it is also crucial to have some legal and commercial awareness.



Parties involved in Music Licensing

Many times, there are usually four parties involved in negotiating music licenses in the Nigerian music industry apart from the licensee:

a) The record labels

b) The artiste/performer

c) The songwriter; and/or

d) The publisher.

Considering the convoluted nature of music licensing, many artists and record labels employ the services of a music publishing, distribution, and licensing company to administer, exploit, manage and collect royalties on their music catalogue.

The music publishers also grant licenses on behalf of the copyright owner. Usually, the publisher acquires publishing rights from songwriters, lyricists, and composers.

Music publishing companies help music copyright owners distribute and recoup royalties for their works on digital music streaming platforms like Apple Music, BoomPlay, Spotify, Deezer, etc.


Register and protect music from theft and plagiarism

1710Media provides the fastest and most affordable way for you to protect yourself and your copyrights. We streamline the process and error-proof your applications so you can avoid making expensive mistakes.

Our service includes the preparation, review, e-filing, and handling of correspondence until you receive your certificates of registration.

  • Register and protect music from theft and plagiarism.
  • We file your application with the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).
  • Our service includes the preparation, review, e-filing, and delivery of your certificate of registration.
  • Receive an Official Copyright Certificate. Valid for your lifetime plus a minimum of 50 years after.
  • Register your songs, albums, beats, lyrics, and other musical projects.
  • Enjoy protection in Nigeria and 178+ other territories.
  • Registration will protect your songs, lyrics & music and will last for the whole of your lifetime plus a minimum of fifty years after your death.

Get Started Today!




Can 1710Media help me with Music Publishing?

Yes! As a Music Publishing Administrator, 1710Media administers your compositions by licensing, registering, and collecting royalties on behalf of your compositions, ensuring you are not leaving any money on the table.

If you sign up with us, we’ll handle all of the aspects of collection for your publishing, including:

  • We manage all aspects of Registration, Licensing, and Royalty collection processes.
  • Worldwide collection: We register your music directly with royalty collection organisations in Nigeria and over 100 other countries.
  • Claim royalty back payments: You can claim royalties from as far back as 2 years ago in many cases.
  • Register live performances: Earn royalties from your past and present live performances.
  • Get royalties when your music is used in; Hotels, Clubs, Online, TV and Radio stations, Halls, Transport Facilities, and many others.
  • Keep 90% of all royalties: We charge a 10% administration fee for all royalty types.
  • You pay a one-time fee (per songwriter): We charge a one-time fee per songwriter. Not annual, not per-release, It’s just one time.




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