Nigerian music is highly influenced by the realities existing in its own society of origin. It is therefore unsurprising that a country where funds are looted brazenly would encourage artistes that mooch off other people’s creativity.
In the past, Nigerian artistes have laid accusations of theft against one another over a myriad of intellectual properties. Some of these have ranged from theft of beats, lyrics and dance moves. However rather than establish a proper judicial process, the flying accusations are escalated into social media wars. This is eventually settled in a so-called mutual agreement done out of legal capacities. Following this premise, it becomes clear that most of the founded claims of copyright infringement have been personally motivated.
Most notable in this regard are Blackface’s claim to African Queen as recorded by 2face Idibia, D’banj’s claim to Kelly Hansome’s Igwe, Don Jazzy’s claim to Wande Coal’s Baby Face and even more recently Dammy Krane’s claim to Wizkid’s Baba Nla. The refusal of these artists to take legal action instead of whining to the media has questioned the validity of their claims.
Producer Shizzi recently made a press release detailing a copyright infringement accusation against err singer, Tunde Ednut and his latest single Kosowo. Many music pundits also quickly noted this as a mark of progress in the industry where intellectual property theft is treated with levity. Shizzi was praised for choosing the legal route instead of getting involved in an exchange of words with Tunde Ednut. In Shizzi’s words, his own production dates back to 2014. However despite the buzz, the question of how Tunde Ednut reproduced the sound without a producer, means the singer had more than a working relationship with Shizzi. There is no doubt that the legal move by Shizzi’s camp was also personally motivated.
Over the years, older artists have suffered from the uncredited recycling of their materials by their younger counterparts. Lyrics, sounds and rhythms are flawlessly sampled, without any legal or financial framework. Thanks to the absence of a proper crediting system, artistes like Flavour have enough recyclable material to last a decade. The same applies for juju and fuji music being harvested by Dammy Krane and Wizkid amongst a host of other artists who sing in Yoruba language. Yet nobody has come after them and nobody will probably do so until they step on the wrong toes.
Intellectual property theft is one of the major problems facing the Nigerian music industry. However the unreadiness of the artistes themselves to face this problem head on makes it difficult to take cited cases seriously. Artistes who are supposed to be protective of their art have converted the infringement clause as a tool of personal vendetta while simultaneously truncating the chances of setting up a working crediting system.
Basically, in today’s industry, you can always get away with theft of creative materials once you say sorry. Will Shizzi’s case be any different?