Choirs and Musical Works: A Question of Copyright Infringement

10 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2019

See all articles by Ifeanyi E. Okonkwo

Ifeanyi E. Okonkwo

NAU, Faculty of Law; University of Cape Town, Faculty of Law

Date Written: September 12, 2019


To aid the people of God in worship and evangelization, choirs/music directors are often in dire need of musical scripts/scores. With the aid of musical notations (i.e staff or sol-fa, etc), music directors can interpret music as written by the author and teach the same to choirs, who in turn indirectly (through repetitive singing) teach the same to the congregation. More often than not, the music as written in a score sheet, printed online, duplicated and photocopied in quantities, then distributed during choir practice for learning. Some choirs store these copies in what is known as ‘choir file/copy’ and some choirs allow its members to take-home these copies for personal learning, and for availability during the performance of these pieces. But that is not all. Photocopies of copies are also cam-scanned and distributed amongst choristers to other chorister-friends all over the world. So, what we have is a proliferation of duplicated distributed works. The problem is – musical works (which include the written music (tune/melody/harmony and the lyrics in them) are subject to copyright. It is concerning musical works, as intellectual property of the author, that the question in review by this article is asked – do choirs infringe on copyright when they print, photocopy, distribute and perform musical works? Many choristers are oblivious of copyright and the acts that constitute infringement. In answering the question, this article shall explore the rationale behind copyright in Nigeria, the protection accorded to musical works, what amounts to infringement and the exceptions or defense available to choristers. Recommendations are also made to the Church and choristers.

Keywords: Choirs, Copyright, Infringement, Musical, Nigeria, Ifeanyi Emmanuel Okonkwo, IP Attorney

JEL Classification: K00, K49

Suggested Citation

Okonkwo, Ifeanyi E., Choirs and Musical Works: A Question of Copyright Infringement (September 12, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Ifeanyi E. Okonkwo (Contact Author)

NAU, Faculty of Law ( email )

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Awka, DE Anambra State 234

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University of Cape Town, Faculty of Law ( email )

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Rondebosch, Western Cape 7701
South Africa

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