Intellectual property law and copyright matters in Tanzania

  • Legal Development 19 July 2021 19 July 2021
  • Africa

  • Intellectual Property

In our latest update, we discuss the concept of copyright, copyright duration, authors, and the law that governs copyright matters in mainland Tanzania.


Copyright and related matters in mainland Tanzania are governed by the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act* (the Act). The Act principally applies to the following:

  • works of Tanzanian authors
  • works first published in mainland Tanzania
  • audio-visual works produced by a resident producer
  • and works of architecture and other artistic works incorporated in a building or structure in Tanzania

The Act offers protection to performances to the extent that such performances are made by a Tanzanian national or that the performance took place in Tanzania. The Act also affords protection to performances that are fixed in a phonogram, audio-visual form or embodied in a broadcast.

The Act protects unpublished works and works first published in a foreign country by foreign authors who are resident in that foreign country. This protection, however, is subject to the reciprocation of similar protection by the foreign country to nationals and residents of Tanzania for their unpublished works or works first published in Tanzania. Expressions of foreign folklore are also governed by the Act subject to reciprocal protection.

The Act is bound by international conventions that govern matters such as expressions of folklore, performances, phonograms and broadcasts. However, Tanzania must be a party to such conventions for them to apply under the Act. For example, Tanzania is a party to the 1886 Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (the Berne Convention). The Berne Convention became operational in Tanzania on 25 July 1994.

Copyright and Authors

The Act defines copyright as the sole legal right to print, publish, perform, film, or record a literary, artistic or musical work. An author is simply defined under the Act as a natural person who creates the work. Authors of original literary and artistic works are protected under the Act by the sole fact of them being creators of such works. Some of the literary and artistic work referred include:

  • computer programmes
  • musical works
  • cinematographic works
  • works of drawing, painting and architecture
  • photographic works

Economic and moral rights of Authors

Authors of works subject to copyright protection are assigned economic and moral rights over their works.

For moral rights, an author is entitled to claim authorship and indication of his or her work, except where the work is included by means of photography, sound or visual recording, broadcasting or distribution by cable. An author also has the right to object and seek relief from the distribution, mutilation, modification and any other derogatory action to his or her work where such action would prejudice his or her honour and reputation.

On the other hand, authors are entitled to the following economic rights:

  • reproduction of the work
  • distribution of the work
  • rental of the original or a copy of an audio-visual work, a sound recording, computer programme, database and musical work
  • public exhibition of the work
  • translation of the work
  • adaptation of the work
  • public performance of the work
  • other communication to the public of the work
  • importation of copies of the work

Copyright duration

Generally, the protection of the rights of authors is covered during the lifetime of the author and 50 years after the author’s death. The Act also specifically covers the duration of protection of the author’s rights on a case by case basis as showcased below:

  • a work of joint ownership – the life of the surviving author and 50 years after the author’s death
  • a work published anonymously or under a pseudonym – 50 years from the date which the work was either made or first made available to the public or first published, whichever date is the latest
  • audio-visual work – 50 years from the date the work was either made, first made available to the public or first published, whichever date is the latest
  • a work of applied art – 25 years from the making of the work

* The Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act Cap. 218 R.E 2002


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