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Ent.News: Nigerian Copyright Act and Sampling: Examining the Legality of Asake’s “Epp Me” Case

Raphael Irenen, a legal practitioner, has dispelled the notion that the viral police officer, Helen Utabor, is entitled to any earnings from the music of Afrobeats artist Asake.

The phrase “Epp me, epp me… He dey carry me go where I no know” gained notoriety after an incident involving Utabor in 2022 when a driver took off with her. Comedian I Go Save publicized the officer’s plight, leading to Asake’s contribution of N5 million toward her medical expenses.

However, Irenen highlighted during an appearance on Arise TV’s Good Morning Show that the Nigerian Copyright Act explicitly outlines the six categories of works eligible for copyright, including music, writing, and audiovisual productions.

He specified that the video featuring Utabor qualifies as an audiovisual work and underlined that copyright typically vests in the author, as per Section 28 of the Nigeria Copyright Act.

When probed regarding Utabor’s entitlement to royalties, Irenen straightforwardly responded, “Looking at the provisions of the law, the simple answer is No.”

He clarified, “The video itself comprises the woman’s voice. It is quite reasonable to expect that people would advocate that she be compensated. But it doesn’t work that way.”

Irenen further elucidated, “If there was an agreement that stated the lady (Utabor) would be entitled to something, royalties, or she has certain ownership over the said video, that would have been different. But there was no agreement to that effect. The young man took out his phone and started recording.”

He emphasized that Asake only used the voice and not the video itself in his song, asserting that removing the lady’s voice makes it a separate entity. Therefore, Utabor does not have a claim to any royalties accruing from the song.

In a tweet, Irenen reiterated, “She is not entitled to any royalty accruing from the song. Though her voice was used/sampled in the record, she is not the owner of the video, from which her voice was expunged and used for the said song.”

This clarifies the legal perspective on the matter surrounding Asake’s song and the contribution of Utabor’s voice to the viral video.

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