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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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia. Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine.
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