Copyright is the property right granted to the author or owner of
- original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work
- sound recordings, films’ broadcasts or cable programmes
- typographical arrangements of published editions
Some examples of works that can qualify for copyright protection are books, speeches, sheet music, instrumentals, song lyrics, movies, plays and theatre productions, dance choreography, paintings, photographs, computer software, etc.
Copyright gives the author or owner of the work a set of economic and moral rights that allows him/her/it to exclusively determine how the work is used. The economic rights give the right to:
- Copy the work
- Issue copies of the work to the public
- Perform the work in public or in the case of a sound recording, film, broadcast or cable programme, to play or show the work in public
- Broadcast the work or include it in a cable programme service, or
- Adapt the work and in relation to such adaptation to do any of the above
The moral rights give the author the right to:
- Be identified as the author
- Object to treatment of his/her/its work that is derogatory I.e. addition, deletion, alteration or adaption the work or treatment that is damaging to the honour or reputation of the author
- Not have a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work falsely attributed to him as an author
The copyright of a work is infringed by any person who performs any of the rights without the permission of the copyright owner, except in those circumstances where the law allows persons to use copyright protected material without permission. It can also be an offence to import, possess, sell or rent infringing copies of goods or the goods and equipment used to make infringing copies.
Some of the general circumstances where permission does not have to be sought are:
- Using the work for your own research and private study
- Where snippets of the work are being criticized, reviewed or reported on
- Where the work just incidentally appears in another work (e.g. someone posed for a photo and there was a painting in the background of the picture that is not the focus)
- Fair dealing
- Educational purposes (except photocopying)
- Use of works by libraries and archives
- Using works in court or parliamentary proceedings
See Part Six of the Copyright Act to get further details on these exceptions and limitations.
However, if a person believes that their copyright has been infringed, they can take legal action against the infringer and get an injunction to stop or prevent the infringement, an award for damages or any other remedies that the Court is able to grant under the Copyright Act.
Whenever you are using someone else’s work, it is always best to get their permission first to avoid an allegation of copyright infringement!
In order to qualify for copyright protection in St. Kitts and Nevis, all of the following have to be satisfied:
- The work must be an original;
- The work must be a literary, artistic, musical or dramatic work, a sound recording, film’s broadcast cable programme or typographical arrangement of published editions; AND
- The author of the work must be a citizen or habitual resident of St. Kitts and Nevis or a country specified by the Minister of Legal Affairs OR the work was first published in St. Kitts and Nevis or a country specified by the Minister.
Once the work qualifies for protection, there are no additional steps to take to get copyright protection because it is an automatic right i.e. your work is protected from the moment that your work is recorded in a tangible manner. This is because St. Kitts and Nevis is a party to the Berne Convention (see section on Treaties) and all parties have agreed that they would not make copyright protection subject to any kinds of formalities. There is therefore no NEED to register your work but it is wise to position yourself to prove that you are the author or the owner of the work should a dispute arise. Some ideas to help you establish ownership are:
- Have an independent person certify that they saw the work in question on the particular date. This might not be the date that you created it, but at least you have independent proof from that date.
- Email copies or pictures of your work to yourself so that there is a timestamp.
- Place copies of your work in a sealed envelope and mail it to yourself via registered mail. Do not open the envelope. The registered mail seal will also provide a timestamp.
- Register your work with a voluntary registrations system in another country.
Note that the © symbol, or the copyright notice (eg. © Peter Paul, 2014) is also not necessary for your work to be copyright protected but it is useful to place it on your work so that others know who it belong to and who they should go to for permission to use it.
The moral and economic rights in copyright protected literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works lasts for the life of the author plus fifty (50) years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. In the case of sound recordings, films, broadcasts and cable programmes, protection lasts for fifty years from the end of the calendar year that the work was made available to the public. However, typographical arrangements of published editions are only protected for twenty-five (25) years from the end of the calendar year in which the edition was first published.
Under the Copyright Act, actors, musicians, dancers, poets, etc also have performers’ rights. In St. Kitts and Nevis a performer has the exclusive right to prevent any person from commercializing his or her performance without consent. A person who makes an unauthorized recording of a substantial part or the whole of a performance (other than for private or domestic use) may be guilty of infringing the performer’s rights. Publicly showing or broadcasting a performance without the performer’s consent is also not allowed in the law. Rights to record a performance may also be granted to another person or entity so their rights should also be observed.
Once a country is a member of the Berne Convention Union, it is expected that they will protect the copyrighted works of other Union member States in the same way that it protects those of its citizens and residents. As such, if a person is a citizen or resident of a country that is a member of the Union, his/her/its work should be protectable in all other members of the Union. As at March 2018, there are 176 States that are a part of the Berne Convention (see list of members here http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ShowResults.jsp?lang=en&treaty_id=15) This means that work that is protected in St. Kitts and Nevis is also protected in many other countries around the world!
- Are software and computer applications protectable by copyright?
Yes, the Act classifies computer programmes as literary works.
- If I run a business and I want to do a radio ad, is it ok to use a song I took from the internet?
When using other people’s work, you must get their permission or a license to use it unless it falls into one of the circumstances where the law allows use with permission. The owner of that song you used could end up taking action against you for copyright infringement. Material on the internet is subject to copyright protection.
- I told a friend an idea I had for a book and she turned around and wrote the book and made lots of money, can I sue her for copyright infringement?
Unfortunately, you are likely to fail if you sue her. Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, principles or procedures so there was no infringement for taking your idea. Copyright protects expressions or the tangible products of your ideas so it may have amounted to copyright infringement if you wrote the book and she stole actual sections from your book.
- If four persons paint a mural, which one is the owner?
Where more than one person contributes to the creation of work, this is known as joint authorship. They are all co-owners with equal rights unless they agree otherwise.
- Is work I created for my place of employment mine or theirs?Where a protected work is the made by an employee during the course of his/her employment, the employer is the owner of the work, unless it is otherwise agreed in writing.