The New Regime of Online Piracy Under the New Copyright Act, 2022


By Amina Tolulope Sulaimon


On March 17, 2023, President Buhari, in his magnanimity, signed the Copyright Bill of 2022 into law which is now known as the Copyright Act of 2022. Prior to the signing of the bill into law, there have been various controversies as regards the protection of online contents and works. This is because the previous Copyright Act, Cap C28 LFN 2004, did not explicitly make pronouncements on the rights of owners in respect of online contents and if the unauthorized reproduction of such works will be deemed to be a copyright infringement. These controversies have been addressed as part of the changes and innovations of the new Act and forms the focus of this article as the writer expounds on the right of online contents’ owners in regards to Online Piracy.

The Concept of Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property are works that deal with creativity, that is, the expression of ideas or works in a way that seems unique from any existing form of such work. Intellectual Property Law is the legal framework put in place to enable owners of creative ideas or works enjoy exclusive rights to their labour without any infringement. The Intellectual Property Laws are divided into various aspects with a focus on the protection of different segments of Intellectual Property. They include Trademark, Copyright, patent and Industrial Design. This article concerns with Copyright which specifically protects the rights of authors to ensure just rewards and recognition for their intellectual efforts and to prevent and prosecute unjust access to the creative work where such access does not fall within the exceptions expressly provided in the Copyright Act.[1]

Online Piracy under Copyright Act, 2022

By virtue of the Copyright Act, the works eligible for protection includes literary works, musical works, artistic works, audiovisual works, sound recording and broadcasts.[2] The protection afforded to these various works are to be enjoyed exclusively by the owners, thus, it cannot be reproduced or disseminated to the public without due permission.[3] In the instance where this takes place, such action is termed Piracy. Online Piracy is the unauthorized adaptation or reproduction of a copyrighted work on the internet or web space.

The previous Copyright Act of 2004 failed to explicitly provide for the reproduction of a copyrighted work on the internet as one of the exclusive rights belonging to a copyright holder, it could only be inferred from the various provisions. However, the new Act made a detailed provision on this right and even included it among the exclusive rights that an owner of a work possesses. For instance, section 9(i) of the new Act in relation to literary or musical works provides that;

“it shall be the exclusive right of the owner of the work to do or authorize making the work available to the public by wire or wireless means in such a way that members of the public are able to access the work from a place and at a time independently chosen by them”

The direct implication of this provision is that the reproduction of a literary or musical work in a manner that individuals other than the owner can access it from the comfort of their homes or place of work like via the internet must be with the permission of the owner. If a book or novel was made in a physical format by an author, the reproduction of such book in an electronic format so it can be accessed by readers on their phones through installed applications must have been authorized by the author. Anything to the contrary will be deemed to be an online piracy and such an individual will be liable on conviction to a fine of at least #1,000,000 or a term of imprisonment of five years.[4]

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It is also noteworthy that the above provision is not limited to literary or musical works alone, it is equally applicable to artistic work- section 10(1)(f), audiovisual works- section 11(f), Sound recordings- section 12(d), and broadcasts-  section 13(1)(c). All the works eligible for copyrights are granted these privileges and the enjoyment is made exclusively to their owners.

Another important reason to commend the new Act is the provision of Anti-Piracy and other measures to protect digital works from unauthorized use and access. The Legal protection afforded in Part VI, section 48, 49 and 50 include the use of technological protection measures, or “TPMs”, to effectively protect access to a work protected under the Act, and ensuring that individuals whose business consists of production and reproduction of works such as publishers, printers, producers, etc., of works in which copyright subsists always keep records of all works dealt with in the course of their business. The provision further states that persons who knowingly goes against the provisions either by circumventing the technological protection measure placed in a work in order to gain illegal access, making sales or hiring devices that could be used in circumventing the TPM or failing to keep records as stated above shall be prosecuted and liable on conviction to a fine or years or imprisonment or both.

If for instance, a writer uploads his paper on a website for the public to access but with fulfillment of certain conditions such as payment of an amount and such work becomes locked and can automatically be accessed upon electronic payment, if a person circumvents the payment and gain access to the work using a software and then re-uploads such work on his own website without regards to the writer’s permission and for his own (website owner) commercial benefit, he can be held liable under section 50 of the new Copyright Act.

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However, for every rule, there is an exception. The rights granted to owners of works although are exclusive, but are not absolute. This is because the new Copyright Act provides for both general and specific exceptions to the owner’s right and the list is exhaustive. The major point of focus of these exceptions is that access, reproduction or use of a copyrighted work without the owner’s consent must be by way of fair dealing and non-commercial purposes. The general exceptions are well provided for in Part II of the new Act, section 20-27. The new Act is also well appreciated for including special exceptions for the blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled persons by virtue of section 26. Equally, section 50(4)-(9) provides for specific exceptions to copyright. Any act done in accordance with these sections will not be deemed to be a piracy or online piracy if related to electronic or online content.

In addition, pursuant to Part VII, Section 54-62, the new Copyright Act specifically provides for the protection of online contents and actions that can be taken where there seem to be an infringement on such contents or works. These actions revolve around the owner of the copyright, service provider and subscriber.

Actions by the Copyright Owner

By virtue of Section 54, where the owner of a copyright becomes aware of an infringement on his right via a system or network, he may notify the service provider by writing to him physically or by electronic means, requesting him to take down the infringing content or disable access to it.  The notice must be accompanied with; signature, identification of the concerned work, material infringing on his right, information sufficient for the service provider to contact him (the copyright owner), a declaration on oath that he had not authorized such (infringement/access), a statement that his information (regarding the infringement) is accurate.

In a situation whereby the service provider has refused to identify the alleged infringer, section 60(1) provides that the copyright owner can approach the court.

Actions by the Service Provider

Section 55(1) states that the service provider upon receiving notice of infringement from a purported copyright owner must notify the subscriber to take the infringing content down or disable access to it. Where this has been done, he has to report back to the copyright owner. The service provider equally has the right to resume such content where the air has been cleared as regards to the infringement of the work. This is expressed in section 55(2) of the new copyright act.

The service provider has also been vested with the authority to ensure that such infringing content after being taken down, is not reloaded into the network, send warning, suspends account or disable such subscriber whom despite being aware of the infringement still intend to or reload such content.[5]

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It is also expedient to reiterate that where a service provider fails to adhere to his obligations or comply with these rules shall be deemed to be liable for breach of statutory duty as provided in section 55(6) of the Act. However, where he adheres to the provisions of these sections, he shall not be liable to any person for any action taken in good faith. This was made reference to in section 55(5).

Actions by the Subscriber

The subscriber in this instance is deemed to be the alleged infringer. Thus, where he receives a notification of infringement from his service provider, he has an obligation under section 56(2) to respond within 10 days by sending counter notice of misidentification or the non-infringement on any copyright.

In a situation where the matter is yet to be resolved within 10 days of the receipt of a counter-notice, the matter shall be directed to the commission for declaration of validity of copyright. If the commission finds the content infringing, they may disable access to such work.


The new Copyright Act of 2022 is praised for addressing the clamors and failures of the previous act as it has brought a lot of changes to the protection of contents or works which are eligible for copyright and the exclusive rights granted to the owners of such works. This article has expounded on these changes in relation to online content and piracy and the liability attached to any persons caught in such act. From the exposition of these commended changes, it can be arguably said that this new Act frowns at online and content piracy and holds anyone who engages in such both criminally and civilly liable. However, once a law is put in place, the next challenge that surfaces is implementation. As much as the changes are welcomed, there should be mechanisms put in place to ensure they are strictly adhered to. This in turn will not only be beneficial to the copyright owners, but also bring about development in the economy of the country.

Amina is an enthusiastic writer and a law student of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State. Email:; +234 9033472758


1] Copyright Act of 2022, section 1.

[2] Ibid., section 2

[3] Save for the owner’s death and the work has been alienated to another; also subject to express exceptions in the Act.

[4] Copyright Act, 2022, section 41(7).

[5] Copyright Act of 2022, Section 55(3) and 56(1).


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