It is no news that musical works are protected by copyright beginning from the moment they are created, subject to originality. Generally, the law protects musical works in the same manner it protects your rights to books written by you, movies you produce, etc. These rights are legally known as intellectual property rights. Although called “intellectual property”, you do not need to be an intellectual in terms of academic prowess before you can enjoy legal protection. It is sufficient that you own the works in question.

In a musical work, intellectual property rights may belong to more than one person such as the actual songwriter, beat producer, singer, etc. depending on the particular circumstances. 

Any unauthorized use of works protected by copyright attracts legal remedy by way of damages. The person infringing your rights may decide to restrain himself upon being contacted and/or pay compensation in addition. In some cases, the person may opt to buy off the intellectual property rights of the owner in the works if the owner is willing to trade. It is usually when the person accused of copyright rights infringement fails to address the demands of the original owner of the work that recourse is had to the courts to mandate the person to comply. 

This was what allegedly played out recently when the news made the rounds that one Jude Nnam filed a N150M copyright infringement suit (FHC/L/CS/304/202) at the Federal High Court against the popular Emeka Okonkwo (E-Money), Five Star Music and Kingsley Chinweike Okonkwo (KCEE). According to The Nigeria Lawyer, Mr. Jude claims that the song titled ‘SOM TOO CHUKWU’ which he had composed in 2001 was surreptitiously included in the music album titled “CULTURAL PRAISE VOL.1″ by the trio without his consent and authorization. He claimed that the Defendants infringed on his rights by adapting, producing, distributing, marketing, advertising and publicly performing the song without his approval. 

As is expected in actions of this kind, Mr. Jude is also asking the court to compel the Defendants to render an account of the profits, income, and benefits generated from the adaptation, production, distribution, sale, advertisement, marketing, and performance of the song. Mr. Jude is also seeking an order of injunction against the Defendant’s regarding the song. 

E-Money is a popular Nigerian socialite who throws around his wealth publicly. From the allegations leveled above, copyright law seems to be knocking on his door for a compulsory “giveaway” by way of damages. “Compulsory” because an order for damages to be paid where such allegations are proved must be complied with. This is far from the usual voluntary splash of cash or giveaways he is known for, as described by the Grammys-winning Burna Boy in his famous track, “Odogwu”. 


However, E-Money and his crew have a number of options available under the law. They may opt to defend the suit jointly. If any of them feels he has no business being joined in the suit, necessary action may be taken to have the name struck off by the Court. 

If the Defendants admit to the allegations, they may decide to have the matter privately resolved amicably by paying adequate compensation as may be agreed. 

But in the event that the Defendants believe strongly that the case against them is fuelled by mere allegations, and that the claims are frivolous, mischievous and gold-digging, they must take appropriate steps. It is not enough to call the bluff of Mr. Jude. E-Money and his crew are advised to seek the services of legal experts in intellectual property law to give a proper legal guide. Whichever option they are inclined to take, having an intellectual property lawyer by their side will guarantee that the matter receives the level of professional touch and closure it deserves. 


Featured Image Credit: TNL

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.