2016 has been a fan’s dream as it concerns industry drama. The ‘chill’ button has been uninstalled in the music, movies, and media circles, and it has become open season for everyone.
This year, there has been no industry respect, with the young raving acts taking on their more established and longevity-certified counterparts and colleagues. Olamide has called out Don Jazzy, YCEE showed some balls to attack Vector, Blackface and Dammy Krane are united in their attack of Wizkid, Tunde Ednut is currently being legally cleaned by Shizzi, and even LOLO1 took Princess to the cleaners.
In all of these exhilarating expressions of discontent, hurt, attacks and counterattacks, one issue lies at the heart of everything, and that is the huge monster called ‘Intellectual property theft’. That’s what Dammy Krane, Blackface, Tunde Ednut, Shizzi, Ycee, and Vector have in common.
Intellectual property is any innovation, commercial or artistic; any new method or formula with economic value; or any unique name, symbol, or logo that is used commercially. Intellectual property is protected by patents on inventions; trademarks on branded devices; copyrights on music, videos, patterns, and other forms of expression; and state and federal laws.
Stealing intellectual property is cheap and easy. All a thief has to do is copy someone else’s ideas or product. The other person or company—the victim—has done all the work, but thieves can reap huge profits. Intellectual property theft can cost people their jobs, damage the reputation of the original maker of the counterfeited product, cause sickness and bodily harm, deprive governments of desperately needed tax revenue, and even result in the spread of organized crime and gangs—which in turn can damage more lives and destroy neighborhoods. It isn’t a victimless crime.
I am a huge fan of people collectively refining and recycling art and expression, but when the core elements of some other person’s creativity are stolen and used with no credit, acknowledgment, nor permission, then that’s a problem.
Wizkid is currently the man in the eye of the storm, with Dammy Krane claiming some core aspects of his craft including verses of songs, slangs, mildly tweaked ebonics, and many more. Blackface is also blowing hot on the Starboy man. He is alleging that Wizkid’s ‘Ojuelegba’, is his work, disguised with new melody and reaping benefits.
Tunde Ednut’s new single, ‘Kosowo’ is a work of art created by Shizzi for Wande Coal. It was remade without permission, and hence, the introduction of the legal system to deal with the wrong. Vector and YCee have had to deal with the similarity of ‘Jagaban’, to ‘King Kong’. This issue, although not publicly addressed, has caused stress internally to Vector and his producer Lucious Krakit.
In Nigerian music, copyright infringement is deeply embedded in the creative process, that it has become normal. The use of slangs, phrases and catchwords to create a unique selling point for pop songs has yielded immense financial gain, hence the tendency to imitate another’s success.
Also, the instrumentation of local music has been illegally reworked, sampled and utilized in making music, without consequences, and this has robbed the Nigerian music of creativity. Last year, Skale’s ‘Shake body’, Reminsice’s ‘Skilachi’, and K9’s ‘Kayefi’, all are creations of one beat. Also the similarities between Vector’s ‘King kong’, and Ycee’s ‘Jagaban’, are too striking to be ignored. Mavins’ ‘Jantamanta’, and Five Star Music’s ‘Ebe ano’, is a classic representation of intellectual property theft.
Why hasn’t this been dealt with?
The Nigerian music industry has been plagued by the inability to enforce copyright laws as contained in the Copyright Act, Cap C28 Laws of The Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and Trademarks Act, Cap T13, LFN, 20014, and Patent & Design Act, Cap P2m LFN 2004.
The Nigerian Copyright Commission is responsible for the is the highest body regulating, advising, and monitoring matters of copyright law in Nigeria, per Decree No. 61 of 1970 in the Nigerian Constitution.
IP law in Nigeria is a bit of a maze. A lot of wiggle room does exist in the enforcement of the law, due to the amount of gray areas involved on the core elements of recording and composition. How do you prove that you were the first to develop a new dance pattern, or introduce a buzz word? How can you convince a competent court that the slang ‘Gbetiti’, was your brain child?
These laws need to be more specific, with more clarification given to this points. Right now, the law is extremely vague, as it reads below:
1. (1) subject to this section, the following shall be eligible for copyright-
(a) literary works;
(b) musical works;
(c) artistic works;
(d) cinematograph works;
(e) sound recording; and
Where does the word ‘Shoki’ come in all of these? How is the line ‘sleeping on a bicycle covered bylaw? These need to be broken down into its bits and composite parts and covered by the law. That way we get a sense of purpose when these cases hit the court. That way, we get real justice, with deterring punitive sentences, and tangible restitution.
A huge reason why people have felt emboldened to go out of their way to infringe on other people’s material is the reluctance to go the legal route. The Nigerian music industry thrives on informality. From promises to contracts and binding agreements, eight out of ten business arrangements between two musicians are done via the bond of word. There is no binding agreement in the fine print, drawn, perused and signed with a counselor.
That informal custom has permeated every facet of the showbiz, including when a theft of IP occurs. The situation is dealt with informally, with affected parties drafting in the ‘Godfathers’/ respected colleagues to mediate. Issues are settled with the offending party getting a slap on the wrist, and walking away from the affair with nothing more than a promise to be of good behavior and a shaken ego.
That way, no one suffers a penalty. Perpetrators are let off the hook, emboldening more people to seek the darker route. This needs to stop. Brotherly love, handshakes are good for the game, but it never made anyone rich, or moved mountains, or took us deeper into unlocking new levels of the art and monetization.
Brotherly love never changed the game positively.
Let the lawyers come in. Let minute agreements be drawn up, and the revenue distribution agreed, let everyone go to court over infringement of copyrights. That way we create the good struggle, and out of it will come peace, creativity, and originality.
Post from Pulse