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Plagiarism and What the Law Says

In a restless attempt to defend Nana Addo’s plagiarized speech saga, some folks are attempting to find cover in the copyright law. In doing so, they are arguing that the intellectual theft Nana Addo embarrassingly engaged in does not constitute plagiarism under copyright law.

Their point is that copyright protection lapses after 70 years of the creator’s death, and that the “original owner” of that lines in Nana Addo’s speech died over 70 years ago.
This is clearly a misreading of the law. Domestically, creator’s rights are protected by the Copyright Act, 2005 (Act 690). Act 690 was drafted based on the Ben’s Convention which governs copyright at the international level. In other words, Act 690 is a granddaughter of the Ben’s Convention.

For the purpose of this discussion, lets limit ourselves to Act 690 since most of the provisions were “copied” from the Ben’s Convention. There are two types of rights under copyright law. These are economic rights and moral rights.

Sections 5 and 6 of Act 690 mercifully outline what constitute economic rights and moral rights respectively. It is trite learning that whiles economic rights lapse after some number of years, moral rights do not.

Section 12 of Act 690 provides that ” the right of the author referred to in section 5 (economic rights) are protected during the life of the author and seventy years after the death of the author unless the contrary is stated in this Act”
Section 18 of the same Act also provides that “the moral rights of authors under section 6 exist in perpetuity and this right shall be enforceable by the author, during the lifetime of the author, and after the author’s death, by the author’s successors whether or not the economic rights vested in the author under section 5 are vested in the author or the successor in title of the author”

From this it cannot be argued that our President did not violate the law. Others have raised questions whether the statement plagiarized by our president is protected under our law. The answer is a straight forward YES. Section 1(2)(c)(iii) of Act 690 provides that a work is not eligible for copyright unless ” it is a work in respect of which the Republic has an obligation under an international treaty to grant protection ”
Ghana is a proud signatory to the Ben’s Convention so has an obligation to grant protection to the statement our President plagiarized. The President’s Communications Director has apologized for the shameful gaffe. Let’s leave it at that. These attempts to use law to legitimize the act will not wash. The law on Copyright is clear for even the visually impaired to comprehend.

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