I covered the legal issues raised by her allegations and you can read it here. Barely a year since those allegations, and after a very successful recent album launch for their latest album release “Invasion,” yet another allegation surfaces of an alleged copyright infringement.
This time, an actress/singer, Steph Nora Okere, claims the duo stole her song and featured it in their latest album. What is crazy about the accusation is Okere alleges the duo had Waje, the very songstress who accused P-Square of copyright infringement, sing (Okere’s) allegedly stolen song.
”Shikena” as in “Oh my!” Let’s get into THE LAW!
Below is an excerpt from Steph Nora’s interview with a Nigerian magazine circulated all over the web:
Steph Nora claims:
“I sent the song (titled ‘Jeje’) over to Jude (Okoye, P-Square Manager) via email and he listened to it. The next day I called him for his opinion and he said exactly these words “Steph Nora the song is good but don’t release it like that because it doesn’t meet the standard of the Nigerian market.” I asked him what should be done and he suggested that I return to the studios and brush it up. . .As (he is) a brother and colleague, I took his advice and went back to the studio with my producer, Jiff. I also consulted with my manager, and we agreed to improve on the work ahead of the album launch, which I planned for this December. I finally completed the song in May/ June (2011).
But to my consternation, two weeks ago my personal assistant called my attention to P Square’s new album, which included a track entitled Jeje. . . What they did was to remix the chorus of my version to a danceable track. That was not all; they also gave their version the same title, Jeje and featured Waje.”
- How does a musical work gain copyright protection under Nigeria’s Copyright Act? In the case of a musical work in Nigeria, there must be showing of a “sufficient effort” on the work to give it an original character” and (a showing that) the “work has been fixed in any definite medium of expression . . .” Think music on a CD,for example to understand the language “fixed in any definite medium of expression.
- What is the legal issue here? The unauthorized adaptation of Okere’s existing work aka. derivative work. Nigeria’s Federal Copyright Act defines “adaptation” as a an instance, “where pre-existing work is modi(fie)d from one genre to another and consists in altering work within the same genre to make it suitable for different conditions of exploitation, and may also involve altering the composition of the work. “
- Huh? In simple language, this is referred to as “derivative work.” Derivative work is where previously existing work is either transformed or adapted into a new one i.e. “new version.” So, a remix of Jeje would qualify as an adaptation under Nigeria’s laws. Under the USA law, such adaptation has to be a “substantial” one. The legal battle is therefore on what constitutes “substantial” adaptation/transformation. Nigeria’s law is silent on this and provides no way of measuring how much is too much.
- Does P-Square Need Permission from Steph Nora to Create a “Remix” Version of “Jeje”? If her allegations are true, yes. Nigeria’s Copyright Act provides “protection for musical work irrespective of musical quality and includes works composed of musical accompaniment.” The Act also provides the exclusive right of the owner of a musical work to make adaptations. If P-Square sought to make an adaptation of “jeje”, they needed Steph Nora’s permission to do so, if what she claims is true.
- What Could Steph Nora Have Done to Protect Herself? There is no centralized copyright registration system in Nigeria unlike the USA, for example. So, her best bet would be for P-Square to sign an agreement not to copy her work before forwarding her song to the duo. The Copyright statute already provides for civil remedy so it seems a bit redundant to have a legal agreement signed. But, the agreement can permit an action under contract law and also serve as real evidence to prove a “flagrant” infringement of Okere’s “jeje” under Nigeria’s Copyright statute.
What Should An Artist/Label in P-Square’s Position Do Before Using Music?
- Don’t Copy Without Permission:If it can be said that indeed P-Square made a derivative work of Steph Nora, then clearly they want to avoid doing so, in future, without permission. While the legal system might not be very strong in Nigeria, the media/blogs are a growing force to be reckoned with. It quickly gets old trying to explain to the public, media, blogs etc. that you did not steal another artist’s song.The first time, people might understand. The second time, you really begin to lose credibility, irrespective of whether the allegations are true.
- The above area poses a tough situation for persons like P-Square. There is no centralized system for copyright registration in Nigeria so how can artists like P-Square protect themselves, especially where they want to help emerging artists? If Nigeria had a centralized system where artists could register their work, P-Square would arguably have registered their work so that when allegations of infringement arise, they can produce their registration.Right now, “publishers, printers, producers or manufacturers of works” under the statute are expected to keep their own personal register pf works they produce,but that does not solve the problem of dealing with accusations that you stole the song of another.
- How Much Is Too Much to Use? This is the biggest battle Okere will have to deal with, especially in a society where Copyright laws are yet to be understood and a streamlined. How much is too much? What are the set amounts of notes, words or lines that a person can use where it does or does not constitute “stealing?” The US courts struggle with these and the decision from courts here are split. Nigeria’s statute is silent on this, so this is a hurdle that might prove tough to overcome for Okere.
- What Remedies Are Available: An Injunction to stop the further sale of “jeje,” monetary damages and accounting. Where there is demonstrated “flagrancy” and it can be shown a defendant has benefited from the infringement, the court can also add the damages it deems appropriate.
- Where Do You Sue: Nigeria’s Federal High Court in the Place Where the Infringement Occurred
TIP: P-Square needs to really clean up their act on this front. Allegations of this sort will ultimately affect the band, especially where US music labels and artists are concerned. Nigeria’s D’Banj just signed a deal with Kanye West’s GOOD Music Label, Nigeria’s Asa also just signed a distribution deal for her music to be retailed across the USA. No distributor or record label in the USA, in their right mind, will want to do business with any record label or artists that are already attracting or are a legal liability. The duo need to put a lock down on these sorts of allegations and get their legal house in order.
Photocredit: Fly Time
- AML 137: Meet Leyla Konjo, Africa’s Music Industry Top Booking Agent (Interview)
- AML 136: Interview with Cherie Hu, Music Journalist
- AML 135: Artist Manager Bond Stanley Ebigbo on New Book, ‘Grounded Ways to the Music Business.’
- Kenya Music Industry Talks: Life After COVID, What do African Creatives Need to Weather the Impact?
- Nigerian Music Industry Talks: Opportunities for Young Lawyers in the Entertainment Industry