Legal Drama, Music Business

Singer Waje Accuses P-Square of Copyright Infringement

NOTE: Article republished from December 2010

Alleged Facts: This music news resurfaces again, after being published last month here. Waje, a rising vocalist/singer, according to the news, alleges copyright infringement by P-Square in their hit song ‘Do Me.’

Key facts according to the aforementioned news are as  follows: 1) Waje collaborated with P-Square to produce ‘Do Me;’ 2) She was never compensated, in anyway, for the hit song; 3) she was never given credit for her work on the CD packet distributed across Nigeria and Africa; and 4) there was no agreement both orally or written outlining compensation and copyright ownership, among many terms.

Why Care? If the facts above are true, then it is quite worrisome and you want to avoid getting in the same situation.

What Law Governs? Nigerian Copyright Act Cap. C.28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. This law was initially passed in 1988, amended in 1992 and 1999 and later re-codified in 2004.

Who Owns ‘Do Me?’ Under Nigeria’s Copyright law, P-Square and Waje are co-owners. They share joint authorship of the song. It is also irrelevant the amount of work Waje put into ‘Do Me’ or that they contributed distinct part that was later made into the ‘Do Me’ composition.

Why? Because the law defines co-owners as persons who “share a joint interest in the whole or any part of a copyright;” OR “[h]ave interests in the various copyrights in a composite production . . . (i.e)  a production consisting of two or more works.” Clearly, Waje has a joint interest in ‘Do Me.’ But let’s get further into the legal gist.

What Does Joint Authorship Mean: Under the law, it is defined as “work produced by the collaboration of two or more authors in which the contribution of each author is inseparable from the contribution of the other author or authors.”

In Plain English? Ask, can ‘Do me’ exists separately from Waje’s part in the song? If the answer is no, then you have joint authorship.

Who Gets Songwriting Credits? Both P-Square and Waje. The law provides a “Paternity right” to copyright owners of work(s). This means Waje has a right to claim authorship and to be identified as author of her work. Waje gets compensated and also appropriately credited as a co-owner of the song.

But Waje has no Contract?! And so?! Nigerian Copyright law by default provides a safety net in instances where parties do not draft a contract. This is unique to copyright law. You should always have a contract in place.

She Should Keep It Moving! P-Square Was Doing Her a Favor: Sure if that is what she wants. For others, first you won’t get in this situation because you read this article and now know better. Second, I don’t care if you are an artist washing the gutters of Ajegunle or selling pure water in traffic at Oshodi. If any artist, famous or not, use your work, absent an agreement where you say “use my song for free and don’t credit me,” they MUST pay and credit you. They did not become wealthy “dashing” people free songs left and right. If they chop (earn money), you too must chop, End of tori.

Is it Possible for Waje to Have Written/Performed the Song and Still Not be a Joint Owner? Yes.

  • If Waje was an employee of P-Square AND (notice the conjunction. You need the “AND”) there was an agreement that said they own the right to her music; OR
  • If Waje was an apprentice with P-Square being the publisher AND there is an agreement saying they own her song.

What Should You Do in Waje’s Situation?

Nigerian law says if you find yourself in Waje’s situation, you are entitled to, among other things, seek through the courts damages (money), an injunction i.e stop further playing or sales of ‘Do Me’ and, an accounting of profits.

NOTE: A lot of these rules mirror US and international copyright laws.

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2 Comments

  1. loveslave says:

    Hi…from what I understand,participating in a song does not mean owneership or authorship,the question should be did Waje write any parrt of the song?musicallly or lyricaly? If she didn’t,she doesn’t own the song o any part of it,however what she is entitled to is proceeding from the sales of the song. If P square wrote all the song,thee song beelongs to them 100%. Correct me if I’m wrong. Peace

  2. Dunno how I missed this. But, below is a response I gave mid last year when someone asked the same kind of question on NJO where this article was first published.

    “The analysis, I believe, regardless of which angle you weigh it from, shows there is a joint authorship with Waje and P-Square. I think the bigger issue is whether Waje, in anyway, waived her rights pursuant to law i.e. via a legal agreement. The alleged facts seem to contradict a waiver. You mention the equitable doctrine of waiver. I’ll get to it. Let’s debunk a few myths, first.

    WAJE AS A SESSION MUSICIAN: First, you seek to categorize Waje as a session musician. As a general practice, P-Square or any other artists in their position should get releases when they use session musicians. We don’t know that Waje was one. Even if she was, it doesn’t change her copyright ownership in the music she created, absent any agreement to the contrary.

    P-SQUARE AS SONGWRITERS FOR ‘DO ME’: Next, you argue that P-Square most likely wrote the lyrics to ‘Do Me.’ Fine. Let’s say I agree, although we do not know whether this is true, it doesn’t change the result that Waje has a copyright ownership in the work she sang on the recording of ‘Do Me.’ Assuming P-Square wrote the song, it is both implicit and explicit that they granted a license (permission) for Waje to sing the song and put her own labor and creativity/skills into the final result. You could argue that they placed conditions on Waje which includes complete ownership and no pay in order to grant her their license to sing, the song. The problem is, there is no legal agreement, assuming the alleged facts and second, that argument is weak, at best,

    Waje can effectively argue, and the law would favor her, that she owns a copyright in the sound recording of the musical composition (the lyrics written by P-Square). Key facts: The sound recording is 1) a hit; 2) Waje’s part was and remains distinctive and memorable as it is a battle of the sexes song with a male and female part; 3) Waje’s voice is intertwined throughout the song; 4) her contributions was significant to the success of the song. There is even a very distinct part where she hits very high soprano notes on ‘Do Me.’

    To really cement this, let’s use an illustration, think ‘Oleku.’ If Brymo was in the exact position as Waje, of course we would want him to get paid and credited. The law and analysis would not be different. In this instance, everyone knows ‘Do Me’ was produced and sung by P-square. They recognize Waje’s voice BUT on the ground, at least, they do not know she also sang the song since she was not in the video; and is also not credited so that she would be readily identified by the millions who have a copy of the CD in their hands.

    WAJE AS A JOINT AUTHOR: Naija law, as explained in the initial analysis, makes Waje a joint author. Trial lawyers could fight about it but at the end of the day, the law is in Waje’s favor on that. Copyright law is still a new area for the creative industries and Naija courts. So, if the court were to look for precedent (binding law that can be followed) similar to this, it need not look too far than England where its legal jurisprudence originates from. Precedent(s) in England courts favor a result that would give Waje copyright ownership and order credit and compensation, among possible remedies.

    WAJE’S SILENCE: Waje’s silence for three years, if true, is irrelevant to whether she can assert her copyright ownership interest in ‘Do Me.’ The song is a classic and will probably be played for generations. Her music copyright in the sound recording of the musical composition (assuming only P-Square wrote the lyrics) is 50years, under Naija law, from the day the recording was first made. If she was also a co-writer, we are looking at 70 years for the musical works “after the end of the year in which the author (Waje) dies.” In a country like England, of which Nigeria borrows a lot of our laws, a 40 year wait, in one instance, did not stop the court from ruling in favor of the Plaintiff citing similar reasoning as above.

    P-SQUARE’S DEFENSES i.e. the Equitable Doctrine of Waiver: It appears you are making a possible legal defense for P-Square, assuming the facts are true. Under the doctrine you seek to use i.e. Equitable Doctrine of Waiver, P-Square would fail. First, they necessarily would have to concede that Waje has a copyright interest in the song. You don’t get to defenses unless you admit that the facts are what they are but there is a reason you acted a certain way.

    Second, P-Square MUST establish that it would be UNCONSCIONABLE for the court to permit Waje to be credited and get paid for her contribution because they relied on her alleged “no pay, no credit” agreement to their detriment. Clearly they can’t meet this burden. No contract exists, per legal requirement, to substantiate their claim, if made. Further, the video has over 3million hits on Youtube and is a continental and international hit. It has been performed publicly in numerous countries and every cent made, plus credit, for the song has been in P-Square’s name and pocket, according to the alleged facts. Waje, as alleged by the facts, was never paid or credited.

    Bottom line, all parties can avoid this scenario by having a legal agreement once a song is written/recorded outlining the terms of what all parties want and how they will sort out songwriter credits.

    Cheers,
    Uduak

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