It is no news that controversy has surrounded  the official release of Pia Mia’s new single  titled “I’m a fan” (Featuring Jeremih) which carries similarity with Phyno’s “I’m a fan” (featuring Decarlo and Mr Eazi). Nigerians in their numbers were up in arms labeling the US artiste “a thief” without waiting for official statement from all parties involved.

Well, apparently, the ‘truth’ has surfaced with De Carlo releasing a statement saying “ I wrote the original demo of “I’m a fan” and pitched it to various artistes . I worked with Pia Mia and Jeremih on the Track and their song is the only version authorized”

Phyno, via twitter responded to the allegations of unlawful use of music by uploading screenshots of his conversation with De Carlo. From the screenshots, it could be deduced that :

  • There was a gentleman’s understanding between De Carlo and Phyno
  • There was no monetary payment for the composition
  • Phyno got the composition by barter
  • De Carlo was aware the song was released by Phyno on his “Playmaker” album.

The major issue stemming from the aforementioned is “Can ownership of a song be transferred orally or by messages/chats”?. In other words, can copyright in a song or a work be transferred orally or without a document? The answer is No.

At this point, it is trite we examine the basic principle of Copyright.

What is Copyright?

Copyright in music is the right a creator of a piece of music has, to prevent others from using it without his/her permission. Copyright in music is also the permission a non-creator of music gets from the creator of a piece of music to use it.

Copyright is automatic and begins at creation. All that is required for a song to enjoy copyright protection is for it to be original and exist in a fixed form.[Fixed form, means music may be written or recorded (doesn’t have to be professionally done) in music sheet, CDs, cassettes or any other storage device. Original,  means the expression of the work must be unique to the owner; it doesn’t mean similar works have not been created]

However, There is no copyrighting of ideas

Rights a copyright owner possesses.

There are two types of rights: Moral rights & Economic rights

1] Moral rights ensure that the creator of music is recognized when his work is used or reproduced. It also ensures that a piece of music is not modified in any way that may be derogatory to the reputation of the creator.

2] Economic rights are rights which the copyright owner can exploit for commercial benefits

– Types of economic rights

A] Reproduction rights- the copyright owner has the right to prevent others from making copies of his music

B] Distribution rights – the right of the copyright owner to control the distribution of his music Publishing rights – the right to make a song (without the sound recording) available to the public resides with the creator or someone authorized by him

C] Performing rights – the copyright owner has the right to determine who performs in public the music he has created

D] Recording rights – this covers the right to make a sound recording or a video recording of a song

E] Rights of Translation – the right to translate or to authorize the translation of a piece of music is solely that of the creator of the work

F] Broadcast and communication to the public – the owner of copyright has the right to control the broadcast of his music on radio, television and other cable stations. He also has the exclusive right to control the communication of his music to the public by means of a loudspeaker or similar devices as seen in shopping malls, banking halls, clubs, buses, aircrafts, restaurants etc.

G] Rights of Adaptation – the owner of copyright has the exclusive right to control the modification of his work into another work

H] Exploitation of the translation or adaptation – the copyright owner has the right to control the exploitation in any form of the adaption or translation of his work Length of a copyright In musical works, copyright runs from the time of creation till 70 years after the end of the year in which the author dies. In sound recordings, copyright lasts till 50 years after the end of the year in which the recording was first made.

 Ownership of a copy Vs. Owner of copyright

The purchase of a piece of music or a full album does not confer on the buyer, copyright. The buyer is only entitled to enjoy the music he has bought in a private setting, anything other than this; he may be liable of infringing on the creator’s copyright

Transfer of Copyright

Copyright ownership can be transferred and this must be done by a written agreement. The transfer (assignment) of copyright only affects economic rights. This transfer could be total or partial

In partial assignment, a music author may transfer his reproduction, translation and adaptation rights to a publisher. He may also decide to split his rights between different persons.

Transfer of copyright may also be granted for a period of time and for a certain territory. Transfer of copyright is serious business and should be entered into only after proper legal consultations.

Therefore, it is important to note that transfer of copyright should only be done via a written agreement. However, verbal agreements are  a common and normal practice in the music industry(especially in Nigeria). This, however is unprofessional and It is high time such non-chalance is eradicated from the industry.

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Fawehinmi Oyinkansola Esq.

Fawehinmi Oyinkansola aka The FozaDoza is synonymous to energy and passion. With keen interest in the entertainment and legal industrIes, Foza has been able to create a niche in both industries for herself. She obtained her LL.B and a Diploma in Security studies from the prestigious Babcock University Ilisan Remo, Ogun State. She was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2014.

She started out in the entertainment industry as Business manager for a school group called Pro Inc which became the favourite go to hip hop group in school. This spurred her passion for talent management and she has worked as a road manager at Monarc Talent Agency (an affiliate of Aristokrat Records), G- WorldWide Entertainment as business manager and currently is the General Manager at a 360 management company (Incubation Factory).

Her clientele spans across the music, film and telecommunications industries where she has effectively brokered license, distribution and endorsement deals. She has an impressive personal and professional relationships with all her clients which ensures she creates a comfortable working relationship. She leads the music and film divisions of the firm.

Foza is a vocal and passionate change agent, a non conformist and an adventurous risk taker. These traits have made her a known face as well as speaker on the most prestigious entertainment conferences stage. She strongly believes in integrity and is driven by family and legacy building. She has received numerous awards in relations to leadership and social activities.

Foza enjoys her live band music sessions, and a gathering of talented artiste anytime. She is the life of every party and has an excellent social skill.

Olumide Mustapha Esq.

Olumide Mustapha is a technology and entertainment attorney both in Nigeria and the UK. As an undergraduate he was a student of Sociology and economics at the University of Reading in the UK before embarking on his legal career by first qualifying – with Distinction – as a Solicitor from the College of Law UK, (and then practising for a period), with a particular focus on International Commercial Law,
Tax and Intellectual Property. Having been also called to the Nigerian Bar with Honours Olumide has since continued to focus on the areas of media, entertainment and technology law.

Olumide, in applying his vast legal and business knowledge in these sectors, has successfully initiated, negotiated and pushed through numerous transactions to the commercial benefit of clients. He has advised two of the “Big Three” global music labels on their planned entry into, and commercial strategy for, the Nigerian market; negotiated significant licensing agreements with a number of major Nollywood production houses and advertising agencies on behalf of a major music publishing company; consulted for one of the country’s biggest copyright collective management organisations; and worked with numerous technology start-ups in securing funding and scaling their businesses. Olumide is also the Chair of the Music Publishers Association of Nigeria.

On the back of such experience Olumide has also built over time a formidable network of contacts that allows his clients to enjoy a full suite of legal and business advisory services that include the ability to source funds, conveniently acquire/produce/licence valuable content, in addition to ensuring specialised due
diligence is carried out on all transactions and that good governance is practiced at all times; all with a keen understanding of the relevant market dynamics and client’s specific commercial objectives. Moreover, he has significant experience in litigation and has a lot of expertise in utilising the Nigerian court system to ensure client’s rights are protected and enforced at all times.

Never being one to shy away from sharing his professional thoughts, opinions, and analyses, Olumide is regularly featured in various media to provide his views and analysis on the legal and business issues surrounding the Nigerian entertainment and technology industries. Such media outlets include Channels TV, TVC, NigeriaInfo FM, Business Day, The Guardian, Techpoint Africa, and the African
Venture Capital Newsletter amongst others.

Olumide’s aim is to use his years of experience and expertise in international commercial and intellectual property law related matters, and strong network of contacts – both foreign and domestic – to contribute to the legal development of Nigerian enterprise structures and governance, and general business practice; thereby pushing the country closer towards fulfilling its socio-economic potential.

Iredumare Ojengbede Opeyemi

A graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University Nigeria (LLB) and University of Strathclyde, Glasgow (LLM) is a legal practitioner in Nigeria with over six years of experience in intellectual property, telecommunication and cyberspace Law.

He is a cyberspace, media and entertainment researcher with keen interest in Music, Film and Television, digital rights and personal data protection, intellectual property protection, creative financing, Media Advocacy and information literacy on the digital space. A cultured, informed and disciplined legal practitioner, who prides himself as a strategic solution executor, an expert in identifying root challenges and creating specific market/territory based solutions to cyberspace and digital challenges. He is always constantly seeking growth opportunities and self-improvement initiatives as a team player working in and for goal-oriented organizations.

Iredumare has spent the last two years facilitating multimillion naira deals for his clients across catalog licensing, catalog acquisition, intellectual property estate valuation as well as developing music business models for various value chain members in the African creative industry. Iredumare enjoys reading and having solution driven conversations with like minds.