Danny Young’s copyright infringement allegation against Tiwa Savage has raised several legal questions, some of which we explored in our in our blog post of 30 November 2018. This post addresses two additional questions below:
1. Can a copyright infringement claim succeed on a claim of the use of similar lyrics or similar instrumentals?
An original song comprises two forms of copyrights- the copyright in the musical composition (the music/instrumentals and accompanying lyrics) and in the sound recording (the recording of an artiste’s interpretation/ performance of the underlying composition). A copyright infringement claim can succeed based onthe unlicensed use of either or both the composition and the sound recording. The unauthorized use of the lyrics and instrumentals of a song in another recording, is an infringement of the musical composition and is actionable in court.
2. What qualifies as an infringement?
There is a similar line in Danny Young’s ‘Oju ti Tiwon’ and Tiwa Savage’s ‘One’- “O d’odun lan ri orogbo, o do’dun lan ri ahusa, o d’dodun lan ri omo obi lori igba, my life don better”. Is this similarity enough to be construed as copyright infringement? It should be noted that not all forms of copying are legally actionable under copyright law. For a valid copyright infringement claim to be actionable, the following must be proved:
i. There must be valid and subsisting copyright;
ii. The alleged infringer must have had access to the copyrighted work;
iii. The duplication must not fall into any exception such as fair use, public domain, etc.;
iv. There must have been ‘substantial similarity’ between the 2 works.
To succeed in a copyright infringement claim, the above factors, amongst others, must be proven either through direct or circumstantial evidence. The major bone of contention in Danny Yong’s claim would be proving that there is substantial similarity in the two songs.
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