Is Your Work Protected Under PNG Copyright Law?

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This week on PNG #IPtok, I wanted to provide an introduction to PNG’s copyright law and more specifically what kind of “work” is protected.

Earlier this year, a young man was caught by surprise when a photo he had taken during a funeral service was splashed across the front page of the local daily the next day. He was furious and rightly so. Family, friends and other social media users were equally disappointed that a local daily who “should no better” went on to use the photo without the owner’s permission.

Interestingly, some users with little to no knowledge about copyright posted about registering your “work”, demanding compensation and so on.

So in this piece, I wanted to provide some basic guidelines on copyright protection under PNG law and further what kind of literary work is protected.

The Copyright Law

Papua New Guinea’s copyright law is governed by the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2000 (Act). 

Copyright under the Act is “automatic”. That is, there is no formal registration procedure to follow in order to have your copyright in the relevant work protected.  In the case of trademarks, you will need to file a trademark application with the PNG Intellectual Property Office and undergo the formal application process before registration. Not so, for copyright.

In a practical sense, once you take the photo, you own the copyright to that photo. The definition of “work” under the Act is the literary, artistic or derivative work eligible for copyright. In the example given, the photo is the work and is a kind of work that is protected under the Act.

What other “work” are protected under the Act?

The Act provides a list of “work” that are eligible for copyright protection. 

Here is a list of works eligible for copyright protection:

  1. Books
  2. Pamphlets
  3. Articles
  4. Computer programs
  5. Other writings
  6. Speeches
  7. Lectures
  8. Addresses
  9. Sermons
  10. Other oral works
  11. Dramatic, dramatic-musical works
  12. Pantomimes
  13. Choreographic works
  14. Other works created for stage production
  15. Musical works with or without accompanying words
  16. Audiovisual works
  17. Works of architecture
  18. Works of drawing, painting
  19. Sculpture
  20. Engraving
  21. Lithography
  22. Tapestry
  23. Other works of fine art
  24. Photographic works
  25. Works of applied art
  26. Illustrations
  27. Maps
  28. Plans
  29. Sketches
  30. 3-dimensional works relative to geography, topography, architecture or science

Extension of works

The Act goes further in its definition of “works” and protects any amendment or modification of the original work. This includes:

  1. Any translation, adaptations, arrangements and other transformation or modification of works is protected
  2. Collections of works and databases whether in readable or other form
  3. Collections of expressions of folklore provided that such collections are original by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents

Works are protected regardless of the form or mode of expression, the content, quality or purpose. Once it is created, the right “flows” with it.

Final thoughts

There is a clear misunderstanding that copyright requires a formal process for it to be protected – it does not. Once you create it, the copyright exists.

Not many people are aware that the literary work they create are protected under PNG copyright law. The list given above, is quite extensive.

In a practical sense, it is always good to put a copyright note to your work as a warning.

Should there be any infringement to your copyright, it is essential that you take steps to get advice and notify the infringer. One of the biggest mistakes copyright owners and generally intellectual property owners do, is do nothing! Being proactive and reacting to a potential infringement is a way of “enforcing” your right and the more you do that, the more people take notice and refrain from infringing your right.

At Vai IP we’ve been able to assist both local and international clients protect their copyright in PNG. Fashion designers seem to make up a large part of our copyright related work and more recently we’ve had to provide general advice to an international television network. Point is – copyright is for everyone and it’s up to you to do something about it to protect your right.

Local SMEs too have also been on the receiving end of potential infringements mainly by large corporations. Seek advice and do whatever you can within your capabilities to protect your right.

mail@vaiiplawyers.com | vaiiplawyers.com

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