Legal Drama

Fela Kuti Estate allegedly in copyright infringement dispute with Skales

Copyright infringement in Nigeria and Africa’s music industry is a serious problem. Also, often, content creators and rightsholders  (from the artists to other industry professionals) scream infringement, piracy etc. but are the worse perpetrators. It is an issue I have discussed for years on an offline and at events/conferences where I have been asked to speak. African creators and rightsholders must learn to clean house first and practice what they preach.

As a general rule, and as we have discussed here on AML, you should not use the creative works of others without their consent. To use the copyrighted music of another in your own music, you need a license. Further, consent, where intellectual property law is concerned, should be in writing (in certain instances, they must be in writing). We will have more discussions on music licensing as the year progresses.

On to our story. The news story below alleges that Skales infringed on the copyrighted work of Fela Kuti. In response, Fela Kuti’s estate alerted YouTube to take down the infringing audio-visual content. The estate has also allegedly addresed the infringement and is requiring Skales to clear his sample.

I think the above brings another player into the picture, Skales’ record company, Baseline. Often, the investors or owners of record companies in Nigeria/other African countries don’t conduct copyright clearances or have systems in place to do so. They also don’t know music history or songs as well as they should to identify/catch such infringing content before sale and distribution. There is a lot of work to be done in setting up the necessary infrastructure as the industry continues to grow.

Interesting times ahead this 2017.

Cheers,

~Ms. Uduak

Excerpt from news story below:

“…Produced by KrizBeatz, the ‘Temper’ remix which was reworked and sampled Fela’s “Sorrow, Tears & Blood” and ‘Roforofo Fight’, had Burna Boy and Skales dovetailing to good effect. The song has a strong Afrobeat sampling with the composition and lyrics riffed in the creation of the new work.

Where Fela sang “Hey, yeah/Everybody run, run, run/Everybody scatter scatter/Some people lost some bread”, Burna and Skales replaced it with “Hey, yeah/Everybody run, run, run/Everybody scatter scatter/Hey, yeah dance don catch fire/Hey, yeah boys don start to maya.””

Pulse.ng has the full story.

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ABOUT THE FOUNDER

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at https://msuduak.com.

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4 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Hello Uduak. This issues of infringement is truly a long thing in Nigeria, its unfortunate that many of the labels and producers pretend they do not know what to do or where to get rights from or the owner of the rights. 3 years ago, i spoke with a big producer/singer whose hits with his partner was a house hold thing, i told him about their hits infringing on many of the songs we have the rights to, he simply said, “I have heard that before, i do my own bits and i am even helping your artiste grow”. I was so shocked. We started a case with the late Mc Loph who had remixed :Osondu Owendi” without our consent, when i met him, he said his record label told him they could not find the rights owner and just went ahead to do the song. Flavor has used so many of the notes and lyrics we have rights to, they will all feign ignorance.

    Michael.

  2. RichyGame says:

    Hello Uduak. Been ages. HNY.

    Dem nor go hear. What does it take to clear sample or an interpolation? Nigerians be getting away with a lot of this kind of carelessness from producers to artists for long but I guess the jig is up.

    In fact, if the infringements Nigerian music creators have practised over the years were to come to light or be discovered, the lawsuits would stretch from here to Bangkok. Thank God for little mercies.

    1. @RichyGame – 🙂 It has only been a month. I understand that it feels like ages. 🙂 As to your comment, agreed. We do have a long way to go on all fronts, and especially in the entertainment industry.

      Cheers,
      -Ms. Uduak

  3. Winston Balagare says:

    The thing to remember about the music of a lot of artists in Nigeria is that it’s available for FREE download. They aren’t selling it in most cases. In many countries, if the use of another’s music is strictly for artistic purposes, and there is no money being made off of it, there is no offense for which to be penalized. However, many Nigerian artists release their music for free, and it somehow finds its way to foreign pay sites like iTunes and Amazon, with profits going to uploaders not even affiliated with the musicians, who likely have no idea that their music is being sold outside of Nigeria.

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