Who owns the right to a song? Nigeria vs United States

“Did you know that if we write a song together, and you write only the lyrics and I write only the music(melody and rhythm), each of us owns a piece of the music and each of us owns a piece of the lyrics? And that neither of us can use just the music, or just the lyrics, without paying the other?”

The write up above is an extract from the book “All you need to know about the music business” fifth edition by America’s top entertainment lawyer Donald S. Passman.

In Nigeria, creating a song usually falls in the hands of the following individuals: producer, artist, studio engineer (if the producer does not double as an engineer), backup artist (if need be) and not so often we use songwriters. Because we are yet to realize there is totally nothing wrong with having a songwriter *excluding rappers lol where it is called ghostwriting and is considered as being a weak artist* pardon me for refraining from the topic. After all the listed individuals, then we have the mighty record label *chuckles*.

Other parts that make up a song creativity that we rarely use in Nigeria but is common in the united states are composers, sample owners. Mentioning a few so i don’t bore you to sleep. *smack* WAKE UP!

In the states, all individuals mentioned who performed in creating the song own a right to a piece of the song even after been paid a fee for their service as an advance or even studio session collected by the producer. He or she still owns part of the royalty even if it’s as low as 1 percent. The reason is that the song is a finished product that took all of them time to make and they own a part of it for as long as possible.

These royalties are calculated from any use of the song in tours, performances, tv/radio/dj usage, movies or in cases where the song is been used in part or full remake of a new song in the future. Yep!

You will get paid for contributing to the song for life. Now these rights can range from a mere 1 percent of the finished song to 10/20% or more depending on the agreement and the percentage of contribution especially for song writers.

Let’s take bank alert by psquare as a case study here, not only would they pay onyeka onwenu as the sample owner for her classic song “iyogogo” she also owns a set percentage in royalties for as long as the song exists. and if psquare had used a song writer, composer? They also own rights same as the producer/engineer after been paid for studio session still own a tiny percent in royalties as well.

Also we do not have record publishers in Nigeria, or maybe we do but it’s muddled up somewhere in some conflicting position headed by someone in the unstructured music labels that we have. a publisher should be the link to a song between the artist, songwriter and its usage by movies, prints, digital media and future records etc in order to help set deals and claim royalties. Such fees in the United States are electronic or automatic under a proper record contract; each individual gets his share either in check mailed to him or in his bank account directly from whoever is paying for the usage. So you don’t have to worry if the record label refuses you your share, or the artist holds on to your cut. Yeah! The greasy slimebags.

The killer of owning any rights to a song in the United States is called “works for hire”. This is simply spelled out as the term, you are hired only to work, from the onset you are been paid a fee to work for hire and leave. hence you do not own any right, so you might wanna charge a lot of cash to be used as a work for hire. depends on your clout as a song writer, it would be silly if as an unknown song writer you are charging an exorbitant price but it’s okay since you get to walk away if the deal is not made likewise the artist knows your stand and if he or she desperately wants you then you might cash out for your expertise. But in Nigeria, most of these rights are either under developed or non-existing. this is as a result of poor structure, lack of attention to details and not only does this adversely affect revenue, it also closes doors for job opportunities as some of these functions and roles are not in place. Naija, we too like wuruwuru to the answer.

No time!
Copyrighting a song has to be originally your work but if it contains samples then you can copyright it in parts i.e psquare cannot entirely copyright their song titled bank alert because it contains samples from onyeka onwenu’s classic song iyogogo.

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