The Copyright Act of 2005 (Act 690) was adopted on May 17, 2005 to replace the Copyright Law of 1985 and the purpose of the new Copyright Act was to bring Ghanaian copyright law into conformity with the 1992 Constitution of the Republic and to help strengthen protection of copyrights and related rights in Ghana as well as to bring Ghana in compliance with its international obligations on the enforcement of international copyright charters and legislations that it has ratified.

The Copyright Act of Ghana, in its current scope and form, provides for exclusive rights of authors in their literary works, artistic works, musical works, sound recordings, audio-visual works, choreographic works, derivative works and computer software programs. The law also affords protection for the related rights of performers and broadcasting organizations.

The Copyright Act provides that ownership of the copyright in all eligible works except folklore vests in the author. In order to be eligible for protection, the Copyright Act requires that the work be original and fixed, created by a citizen or resident of Ghana, published within Ghana within 30 days of its publication outside Ghana, is a work in respect of which Ghana has an obligation to grant protection to under an international treaty (if published outside of Ghana).

The duration of copyright protection for an eligible work is the life of the author plus 70 years after his/her demise. Where a work is a joint work, the duration of protection is for the life of the last surviving author plus 70 years. In the case of a corporate entity, protection is 70 years from the date the work was first made or published, whichever is later.

The duration of protection for the related rights for performers is 70 years from fixation or the end of the calendar year in which the performance occurred, and 40 years from the date of making the broadcast or the signal for broadcasting organizations.

Special provisions regarding duration also apply for anonymous works, audio-visual works, sound recordings and folklore. Moral rights however exist in perpetuity.

According to the Copyright Act of 2005 (Act 690), works fall into the public domain either by expiration of the term of protection, renunciation of rights by the author, or by being a work from a foreign country that does not enjoy copyright protection in Ghana.

Further analysis of the Copyright law of 2005 also shows that, an author has the right to transfer copyright ownership in the economic right sense to the work by assignment, testamentary disposition or operation of law. License of an exclusive economic right may be granted in writing, orally or inferred by conduct.

A levy is imposed on every device capable of copying a work protected by copyright. Those levies are collected by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) at the time of importation or production of the device.

It is also clear from Act 650 that registration of a work with the Copyright Administration (Copyright Office) is not a prerequisite for copyright protection; there is, however, a voluntary registration system in Ghana, the purpose of which is to maintain a record of works, publicize the rights of owners and provide evidence of ownership and authentication of copyright and related rights.

Several measures to enforce copyright and related rights are available in Ghana, including criminal prosecution, civil action, customs actions and mediation.

According to the Ghanaian statutes, copyright infringement is a criminal offense. Violations under the Copyright Act are punishable by a fine of up to 1000 penalty units (currently 1 penalty unit = GHC 12.00, with the current maximum fine being GHC 12,000.000) or for up to three (3) years imprisonment or to both.

Unfortunately, the Audiovisual Rights Society of Ghana (ARSOG) has observed with grave concern the blatant infringement right holders under the Copyright Law and has initiated an advocacy action under the auspices of the DANIDA and USAID sponsored Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund for the formulation of a comprehensive strategy to facilitate the strict enforcement of Ghana’s Copyright Law and make it adequately responsive to the needs of all stakeholders in the creative industry.