Music Business In Nigeria: Lack Of Understanding Of Rights, Legal Protection By Artists And Mechanism For Ensuring Fair Compensation

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In the captivating landscape of African music, Nigerian music has emerged as one of the most vibrant in Africa, garnering accolades such as BET and MOBO Awards...
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In the captivating landscape of African music, Nigerian music has emerged as one of the most vibrant in Africa, garnering accolades such as BET and MOBO Awards, Grammy nominations and other global recognition. It has emerged as a pivotal force in the Afrobeats scene, showcasing a blend of traditional African beats, highlife, and modern Western influences. Renowned artists such as Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, alongside emerging talents like Asake, Rema, and Ayra Starr, have significantly propelled this genre into the global stage.

Notwithstanding its remarkable success, the African global music industry encounters various legal and regulatory challenges. One notable challenge is the lack of engagement of specialised intellectual property lawyers by artists venturing into the music business. By seeking legal support, artists can navigate the complexities of the industry and safeguard their artistic endeavours.


In Nigeria, the legal framework that protects music artist's rights includes copyright laws and various intellectual property regulations. Copyright is a bundle of rights which the author or originator of certain intellectual works is entitled to. The act addresses key aspects relevant for the protection, promotion and monetization of creative endeavours. The copyright act aims to protect the artistic creation of writers, photographers, composers, publishers of music, cinematographers and other creative.

  1. Protection of Creative Works: Section 1 of the Copyright Act provides cogent mechanisms to protect diverse creative works, including literary, artistic, musical, and cinematographic works, among others. Copyright laws provide music artists with the legal framework to protect their creative works from unauthorised use, reproduction, and distribution. It serves as a bulwark against unauthorised exploitation.
  2. Monetary Compensation: It is of utmost importance to recognise the inherent value of creative expression. The act ensures fair and equitable compensation for creators. Copyright laws enable artists to negotiate royalty agreements and licensing frameworks. Section 15 of the Copyright Act seeks to uphold the principle of remuneration commensurate with the economic value generated by creative works.
  3. Moral Rights Preservation: Section 14 of the Copyright Act enshrines the concept of moral rights, safeguarding the integrity and attribution of music artists. Music artists retain the rights to be identified as the authors of their works, and to object to any unauthorised distortions or modification of their work.
  4. Registration and Enforcement: The act incorporates streamlined registration procedures and establishes standardised mechanisms for the resolution of disputes. It empowers music artists to assert their rights through civil remedies and equitable remedies, thereby deterring infringement and ensuring swift redress. In order to seek redress, it is advisable to register their work with the Nigerian Copyright Commission. This registration helps provide legal protection and establishes a record of ownership for their creative works.
  5. Licensing and Collaboration: The importance of collaboration in the creative industry cannot be overemphasised. The act encourages synergy between music artists and record companies. It provides a framework for establishing agreements, licensing, and royalties, which helps foster mutually beneficial relationships in the music industry and it also propagates the exploration of new revenue streams and the expansion of creative horizon.
  6. Royalty Collection: The act mandates the establishment of transparent and accountable royalty collection mechanisms. Through collective management societies and digital platforms such as spotify, Apple Music and Youtube music, creators can effectively track and monetise their works. Organisations like Nigerian Copyright Commission play a crucial role in managing and distributing these royalties to artists.

Confronting Obstacles: Navigating the Roadblocks Encountered by Nigerian Music Artists

Nigerian music artists are usually faced with variety of challenges such as execution of unfavourable contract, royalty collection issue, low per-stream payouts, digital piracy, distribution disparities, copyright infringement, and lack of legal awareness.

  1. Execution of Unfavourable Contract: Despite legal protections provided by copyright laws, music artists often find themselves at a disadvantage when negotiating contracts with record companies and streaming platforms. The issues of restrictive clauses can result in music artists signing agreements that undervalue their work and drastically diminish their long-term earning potential.
  2. Royalty Collection Issues: The high complexities of royalty collection present a great challenge to music artist seeking fair compensation for their contributions. Nigeria has multiple collective management organisations (CMOs) responsible for collecting and distributing royalties on behalf of music artists. However, the existence of multiple CMOs often leads to inefficiencies in royalty collection.
  3. Low Per-stream Payout: The rapid advent of digital streaming platforms has improved the consumption of music. However, the prevailing model of per-stream payouts has been subject to scrutiny for its inadequacy in remunerating music artists fairly. Despite millions of streams, many music artists receive low payouts, raising concerns about the sustainability of their livelihoods in an increasingly digital landscape.
  4. Digital Piracy: The rapid increase of digital piracy poses threat to the economic interests of music artists. Illicit streaming websites, peer-to-peer file sharing, and unauthorised distribution channels encourages the unauthorised dissemination of copyright contents, resulting in gross loss of revenues and diminished incentives for music artists to produce new works.
  5. Distribution Disparities: limited access to global distribution networks, language barriers and cultural biases can hinder the visibility and commercial success of musical works.
  6. Copyright Infringement: Despite legislative frameworks, copyright infringement still remains a pervasive issue, fuelled by the ease of digital reproduction and dissemination.
  7. Lack of Legal awareness: Music artists may unwittingly relinquish their rights or fall victim to exploitation due to ignorance of copyright laws and contractual obligations.

Breach of Exclusive Rights of the Author of a Musical Work or Sound Recording

It is pertinent to note that music artists invest countless hours, talent and resources into crafting their compositions, only to be saddled with the disheartening reality of unauthorised use, reproduction, or distribution that undermines their exclusive rights. The instances of copyright infringement are delineated in Section 15 of the Copyright Act, encompassing the following actions:

  1. Unauthorised utilisation or commercially distributing a protected music work.
  2. Importing copies of a musical work into Nigeria, which would constitute infringement if produced domestically.
  3. Public exhibition of articles infringement, such as pirated sound recordings.
  4. Manufacturing or possessing plates, master tapes, machinery, or equipment intended for producing infringing copies of musical work.
  5. Allowing public venue or business establishment to host a performance of a musical work without proper authorisation, thereby committing infringement.
  6. Engaging in or facilitating performances of musical works for trade or business purposes, or as ancillary activities supporting trade.

Enforcement Mechanism:

Litigating Copyright Infringement

In the musical industry, copyright infringement poses a persistent threat to the rights of music artist, and as such violation of the exclusive rights is prohibited under the Copyright Act, potentially leading to a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

Upon identifying instances of infringement, music artists may choose to pursue legal action to enforce their rights and seek remedies for damages. However, it is essential to acknowledge certain limitations before initiating this process.

Limitations to Consider

The jurisdiction to adjudicate matters of copyright infringement lies exclusively with the Federal High Court, and legal action for infringement may only be pursued by the creative owner, assignee, or an exclusive licensee of the musical work. In lieu of this, individuals attempting to initiate a copyright infringement case in any other capacity, such as non-exclusive licensee, would lack the legal standing to maintain the action.

Furthermore, in cases where both the copyright owner and exclusive licensee have concurrent rights of action against an infringement, neither party may proceed with legal action without the court's permission unless the other party is either joined as a plaintiff or added as a defendant.

In addition, individuals engaged in activities that relates to negotiating licenses, collecting royalties, or representing multiple copyright owners are restricted from bringing lawsuits for copyrights infringements unless they are authorised to operate as a collecting society or have obtained exemption from the Nigerian Copyrights Commission.

Remedies for Copyright Infringement

Similar to other civil lawsuits, a claimant in a copyright infringement case has the option to seek declaratory relief, perpetual injunctions, or general damages. It is important to understand that declaratory reliefs solely determine the rights of the parties without further action. Therefore, it is advisable to accompany a request for declaratory relief with a request for injunction to prevent future infringement, as well as damages to compensate for past infringement.

Moreover, where it is established or admitted that infringement occurred but the defendant was unaware or had no reasonable grounds to suspect that the work was protected under the Copyright Act at the time of infringement; the court may only order an account of profits against the defendant.


The Nigerian music industry is experiencing rapid growth. However, it is faced by challenges, particularly the lack of understanding of rights and legal protection among artists. There is a need for mechanisms to ensure fair compensation, and the importance of raising awareness, promoting legal education, and implementing robust systems that safeguard the rights of artists. In the same vein, there is need to curtail infringing practices through competent litigation to ensure that only authors or persons duly authorised by them, profit from exploitation of a copyright protected musical work.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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