What is Copyright?

Copyright is the area of IP laws that provides protection to original works of authorship such as books, paintings, architecture, musical compositions and computer software.

In Samoa, copyright is an automatic unregistered right that is granted once the original work is expressed in a material or tangible form (e.g. paper, CD, DVD) no matter the content.

Works Protected

Copyright protection is provided under the Copyright Act 1998 and the Copyright Amendment Act 2011 which became effective on 1st October 2012. The legal protection of copyrighted works permits the development and flourishing of cultural industries, as well as technology-oriented businesses based on computer software and other technologies.

To  be protected under the Copyright Act 1998, the “work” that is sought to be protected, must be an original creation that meets the criteria of a protected “work” in accordance with Sections 3(1)(a) – (k) of the Act.

Protected works include the following:

  • Books, pamphlets, articles, computer programs, and other writings,
  • Speeches, lectures, addresses, sermons and other oral works,
  • Dramatic, dramatico-musical works, pantomimes, choreographic works and other works created for stage productions,
  • Stage productions of works mentioned in the previous item and of expressions of folklore that are apt for such productions,
  • Musical works, with or without accompanying words,
  • Audiovisual works,
  • Works of architecture,
  • Works of drawing, painting, sculpture, engraving, lithography, tapestry and other works of fine art,
  • Photographic works,
  • Works of applied art,
  • Illustrations, maps, plans, sketches and three-dimensional works relative to geography, topography architecture or science.

Works Not Protected

No protection shall extend under the Act to:

  • Ideas, procedure, system, method of operation
  • Concept, principle, discovery or mere data
  • Laws

Copyright Owner’s Rights

Copyright owners have exclusive rights in relation to their work to:

  • Make copies of the work
  • Produce other works based on the original
  • Display, publicly perform, broadcast, distribute, sell, rent, lease or lend copies of the work to the public
  • Other communication to the public of the work
  • Be named as the creator of the work
  • To object to any distortion or other modification in relation to the work which would be prejudicial to the author’s honour or reputation.

Who Owns the Copyright?

The owner of copyright in a work can be

  • The author or creator of the work
  • Author or creator’s heirs (living family) if the author or creator is deceased
  • Creators of a joint work share the copyright ownership
  • Work created in the course of employment – the employer owns the copyright
  • Anyone to whom the author or creator has given or licensed their copyright

Duration of Protection

The protection will depend on the original work involved, as indicated in the table below:

Copyright Work Duration of Copyright
Literary, artistic, musical works Life of the author and 75 years after his/her death
Joint authorship Life of the author and 75 years after his/her death
Collective works 75 years from the making of the work
Publisher’s works 75 years after first publication
Works of applied art 25 years from the making of the work

Copyright Amendment Act 2011

The Copyright Amendment Act 2011 which amended the Copyright Act 1998 introduced several changes which include the following:

  • Unlimited free copying for personal use has been limited to 10% of the whole work.
  • Allowed copying of a work for private research and study, for Parliamentary or judicial proceedings or inquiries.
  • Copyright in a work is not infringed by its incidental inclusion in an artistic work, sound recording, an audiovisual work or a broadcast or by the publication, playing, performance or other use of the work.
  • Incidental inclusion exemption does not apply if a musical work or words spoken or sung to music are deliberately included in another work.
  • Establishment of a copyright collecting society to collect royalties that are passed on to the musicians, artists, authors or the creator of the original works.
  • The Registrar has the powers to enter and search any building, vessel or vehicle for inspections of alleged copyright infringements.

Record Keeping

Given the duration of protection of copyrighted works, it is important to keep track of your own copyright work.  The Division has created a database to record Copyrighted works that creators/authors submit to our Office, in an attempt to be proactive with our enforcement of any future complaints regarding copyright infringements as well as the initial steps towards establishing a Collective Management Organisation to administer the collection of royalties for Copyrighted works.   We therefore encourage the original creators of copyrighted work to provide to the RCIP Division, if they so choose, their copyrighted work so that it can be recorded in our database of Copyright Works.

Copyright Protection Overseas

Samoa is a member of the Berne Convention for Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. This international Convention is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organisation and effectively gives reciprocal rights to copyright owners whose work is created in one member country and used in another member country.  This means that copyright work created by Samoans or residents here, is automatically protected in each member country of the convention under the national laws of that country and vice versa.  Click here for a List of states who are parties to the Berne Convention

Traditional Knowledge

Traditional Knowledge (‘TK’) is knowledge, know-how, skills and practices that are developed, sustained and passed on from generation to generation within a community, often forming part of its cultural or spiritual identity. TK can be found in a wide variety of contexts, including: agricultural, scientific, technical, ecological and medicinal knowledge as well as biodiversity-related knowledge.

Traditional Cultural Expressions

Traditional Cultural Expressions (‘TCE’) are protected by the Copyright Act 1998.  TCE is a group-oriented and tradition-based creation of groups or individuals reflecting the expectation of the community as an adequate expression of its cultural and social identity, its standards and values as transmitted orally, by imitation or by other means.  TCE may include music, dance, art, designs, names, signs and symbols, performance, ceremonies, architectural forms, handicrafts, or many other artistic or cultural expressions         .

Under the Copyright Act 1998, Traditional cultural expressions are protected against:

  • Reproduction,
  • Communication to the public by performance, broadcasting, distribution by other means,
  • Adaptation, translation and other transformation, when such expressions are made either for commercial purposes or outside their traditional or customary context.

However, an exception is allowed by Samoa’s Copyright laws whereby TCE can be used for personal purposes, face to face teaching or scientific research and cases where a work can be used without consent by the owner.

Copyright Form

Copyright recordal form

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