Just a few months ago, Don Jazzy and Mo’Hits caused an industry revolution with their ‘Enigma’ beat competition. Almost instantly, they made online music contests within Nigeria’s music industry very popular. Since then, we’ve seen many jump on the bandwagon, as they should, to do similar music contests. Music online contests is so popular among Western and Eastern nations, Nigeria is actually quite late to the game.
eLDee, following in further developing the path carved by Don Jazzy and Mo’Hits, recently did a Top Talent Producer beat contest. He provided an acapella rendition of his song and asked producers to compose music i.e. create a beat to his lyrics and vocal composition. Like Mo’Hits, he used the popular Notjustok.com as a platform.
Clearly eLDee owns the acapella song he created and that he has made available for these producers. Further, clearly, the track i.e. the fully produced instrumental musical bed with no vocals or lyrics etc. produced by the music producers,belongs to these emerging producers.
Now this is where it gets interesting. When the two fuse together, we have a collaboration or joint authorship on our hands. So, who owns the song? eLDee? the Producers? Both? I’ve evaluated this kind of scenario in the Waje v. P-Square context. A little twist to this is that it is a beat competition of which two areas of the law come in place:
First, intellectual property laws. We’ve got so many competing laws here. USA Law comes into play because NJO is a USA based company and is the site the competition is hosted on. Nigeria’s Copyright Law comes into play because eLDee’s Trybe Records is based in Nigeria. In addition, the intellectual property laws of the countries of all contestants who entered into the competition could also come into play if a legal dispute arises since there has never been any clearly defined legal terms on whose country’s laws rule if there are issues.
Second, the other area of the law at issue here is contract law. Which contract law governs in this instance should a dispute arise? Here, depending on where the producers reside, USA, Nigeria, and other countries where a dispute arises could be up for grabs, since there are, at present, no terms and conditions of which law will govern where a dispute arises. It depends on who runs to court to sue first. If a producer is in Malaysia and eLDee or a Malaysian producer alleges copyright infringement, Malaysia can be a lawful place to fight about the terms of this attempted unilateral contract.
The other issue here is, eLDee has a copyright clause that threatens copyright prosecution if producers who lose in the competition use the song without consent. See the clause below:
* Please note that by entering into this competition, you may ONLY publish your version of the song with a written consent and approval from Trybe Records. If your version does not make it into the top 5, you are strictly prohibited from publishing, sharing, promoting or selling your version of the the song on any platform, whether or not for profitable cause. All rights to the song and composition remain solely with Trybe Records and any violation will result in prosecution.”
This means unlike Don Jazzy’s Enigma beat competition where artists, who did not win, promoted their co-authored works and gained visibility for their works online and in the media, eLDee’s clause curtails such use and promotion.
From a label perspective, what are the advantages of doing this? From a producer perspective, can eLDee legitimately restrict such use? What if you are a music producer and want to forego eLDee’s “song and composition” and just use your own instrumental track you created? Can you do this?
I’ll take this issue on as soon as time permits because there are so many legal issues to address and ongoing, all at once, given eLDee, unlike Mo’Hits threw the law into the mix.
But a few things to note, eLDee and Trybes Record were quick to jump on the Oliver Twist video beat competition, record a video, create a derivative work off Mo’Hits song (both the sound recording and lyrics) and promoted it, even if it was “not for profitable cause. See video below.
eLDee also did a remix on Drake’s instrumental on ‘You the Best’ and promoted it, even if it was “not for profitable cause.
It appears a bit contradictory, in my opinion, irrespective of whether eLDee’s clause is legal or not, for eLDee to enjoy free promotion of the tracks of others to amplify his brand, but for emerging producers trying to be noticed, he restricts them from promotion of the finished product, albeit it includes his work. #Just saying.
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