Below are Frequently Asked Questions Relating to Copyright Protection and their Answers


(1) What is Copyright?

Copyright is a basic right which enables creators of literary and artistic works such as writers, artist, musicians, software developers etc. to receive recognition for their works as authors and also financial rewards for their creative works. This right entitles them to authorize or prohibit the use of their works by others.

(2) What are related rights?

Related rights previously known as neighbouring rights are rights given to certain persons or legal entities who contribute to making works available to the public or who produce materials which contain sufficient creativity or technical and organizational skill that they merit legal protection

The traditional beneficiaries of related rights are:

  • Performers
  • Producers of phonograms
  • And broadcasting organizations


(3) What rights does a copyright owner have?

A copyright owner enjoys two (2) distinct categories of rights. These are: Economic Rights and Moral Rights.

The creators of copyright protected works and their successors have the sole right to use or authorize others to use their works on agreed terms. A creator of a work can prohibit or authorize any of the following:

  • The reproduction of the work in various forms such as printed publication photocopying or sound recording;
  • The public performance of the work as in staging a play in a theatre musical work;
  • The recording of the work in the form of compact disks, cassettes, or videotapes, etc.
  • The broadcasting of the work by radio, cable or satellite;
  • The translation of the work into other languages or its adaptation such as from a novel into a screenplay
  • The distribution of the work by way of first sales
  • The renting of the work as by video libraries renting video films

These rights are called economic rights and the creator enjoys them moment the work is created and they expire 70 years after the death of the creator.

Moral Rights these rights include the right of the creator to claim authorship of the work that is to say to be recognized and named as such and the right to oppose any changes to his work that could harm his or her reputation.


(4) Are ideas and concepts protected by copyright?

Ideas, concepts, procedures, methods or things of similar nature are not protected by copyright. Copyright protection extends only to expressions. This is the universally accepted principle.


(5) Can I sell any of my rights?

Absolutely, Economic Rights are transferable, that is they can be sold outright or licensed. Moral Rights on the other hand are personal to the author or creator of the work and can NEVER be transferred. They exist forever even after a creator has sold all his/her economic rights in a work or after the expiration of the copyright, he/she has to be acknowledged as the author and can oppose any damaging alterations to his/her work.


(6) What is an assignment?

An assignment is a sale or transfer of a property right. Under an assignment the rights owner transfers the right to authorize or prohibit one or some of his/her economic rights. So if all rights are assigned, the person to whom the rights were assigned becomes the new owner of the copyright.

(7) What is licensing?

Licensing means that the owner of the copyright retains ownership but authorizes another individual or a company to carry out certain acts covered by his/her economic rights generally for a specific period of time and for a specific purpose. For example, the author of a novel may give a license to a publisher to make and distribute copies of the novel. He may at the same time also give license to a film producer to make a film based on the novel. Licenses may be exclusive or non-exclusive. In an exclusive license, the copyright owner agrees not to authorize any other party or entity to do any of the licensed acts. In a non-exclusive license on the other hand, the copyright owner, may authorize others to carry out the same acts.


(8) How do I get permission to use someone else’s work?

You can contact the copyright owner. In situations where it is impossible or impracticable to contact the individual right owner, you can get the permission from the relevant Collective Management Organization (CMO).


(9) How much of someone else’s work can I use without getting permission?

You can only use limited portions of a work for purposes like; news reporting; teaching; and private personal use. By private personal use, we mean purposes that are not for any commercial gains.

There are other permitted uses relative to particular kinds of work like Computer Software.


(10) What works are protected by copyright?

  • Literary work (e.g. novels, essays, letters, reports, lectures, plays, biographies, directories, compilations, etc.)
  • Artistic work (e.g. paintings, print fashion and wood designs, maps, work of architecture, work of applied arts etc.)
  • Musical work
  • Sound recording
  • Audio-visual work
  • Choreographic work
  • Derivative work
  • Computer Software or Programmes


(11) What are the conditions to be satisfied for copyright registration?

  • It must be original in character
  • It must be written down, recorded or expressed in any material form.
  • It must be created by a Ghanaian or any person resident in Ghana
  • It must first be published in Ghana. If published outside Ghana, it must subsequently be published in Ghana within thirty days.
  • Works in respect of which Ghana has an obligation under international treaties to grant protection such as Berne convention also enjoy copyright in Ghana.


(12) How is copyright protection obtained?

Copyright protection is obtained AUTOMATICALLY the moment a work is created.

(13) If copyright protection is automatic, then why does the Copyright Office register works?

Though copyright protection is automatic, Section 39 of the Copyright Act (2005), Act 690 has a provision for the registration of works.

The Copyright Administrator is required by law to open and maintain a register of works and copyright owners may register their works. The purposes for the registration of works are:

  • To maintain a record of works
  • To publicize the rights of owners
  • To give evidence of ownership and authentication of intellectual property.

(14) How long does copyright protection last?

Copyright protection last from the day the work is created until 70 years after the death of the creator/author/copyright owner. If the authors are more than one (joint authorship), copyright protection lasts from the day of creation of the work until 70 years after the death of the last surviving author.


(15) Who is an author?

An author is the creator of a copyright protected work. The words ‘Creator’ and ‘Author’ are used interchangeably.


(16) Who owns the copyright?

The creator/author of a work owns copyright to the work he/she has created. However, in cases where someone is hired specifically for the creation of the work, the copyright claimant will be the employer. Also, if an author sells out his/her entire Economic Rights (which is usually for a stipulated period of time), then during the time when the license is in force, ownership of copyright is temporarily vested in the licensee (i.e. the one who purchased the license from the original creator).

The phrases ‘Right holder’ and ‘Right owner’ are used interchangeably to refer to an individual who owns copyright to a work. The rightholder can also be an entity such as a company or an association.


(17) What is the procedure for the registration of copyright?

A person who wishes to register his copyright protected work shall:

  • Pay the prescribed fee;
  • Fill the prescribed application form and
  • Deposit two (2) copies of the work for which registration is being sought.


The Copyright Administrator shall on receipt of the application, determine whether the work is a subject matter for registration or not and inform the applicant accordingly.

If the deposited work is a subject matter for registration, it is registered and the applicant is issued with a certificate, where applicable.


(18) How long does it take to register a work?

The process takes approximately one month.


(19) What is the effective date for registration?

Registration of copyright takes effect on the date the certificate of registration is signed.


(20) What do I do when someone uses my work without my permission?

  • You may report the matter to the police who would investigate and prosecute the infringer. On conviction, the infringer could be made to pay a fine of not more than one thousand penalty unit and not less than five hundred penalty units or to a term of imprisonment not more than three years or both.


NOTE: One penalty unit equals to twelve Ghana Cedis

1 penalty unit = GHC 12.00

1,000 penalty units = GHC 12000.00

  • You could initiate proceedings in the High Court for an injunction to prevent the infringement or prohibit the continuation of the infringement.
  • You could again initiate proceedings in the High Court to recover damages for the losses sustained as a result of the infringement.

NOTE: Both civil and criminal proceedings can be instituted simultaneously.