Danny Young v Tiwa Savage, Is there a Copyright Infringement?

Recently YouTube took down one of Africa’s biggest female music stars, Tiwa Savage’s “One” music video after alleged copyright infringement claims by a third party. Danny Young, who is also a musician who was most popular in the late 2000’s has admitted to reporting the said video to YouTube. YouTube is known for their strict measures against promoting any form of Intellectual Property Rights violation and in 2018 introduced a new Copyright match tool to stop plagiarism.

Earlier in November 2018, when Tiwa Savage had first released ‘One’, Danny Young had publicly accused her of lifting ‘vital parts’ -which happen to be only a line or two- off his 2008 hit single Oju Ti Won. Danny Young also claims that his lawyers reached out to Tiwa Savage’s lawyers but they were ignored. He also claims that he is ready to file a Copyright Infringement Suite against Tiwa Savage to stop her from profiting off what is originally his.

On his song, “Oju Ti Won”, Danny Young sings in Yoruba:
             “Odun odun lanri orogbo, odun odun lanri awusa. Odun odun lanri omo obi Lori igba My life don better”
While Tiwa Savage on “One” sings:
            “Ododun la ro ro gbo, Ododun la ra wusa. Ododun la ro mo bi lori gba My life don better”

“Odun odun lanri orogbo, odun odun lanri awusa. Odun odun lanri omo obi Lori igba My life don better”

Has there been a copyright infringement??

  1. Copyright protects the expression of artistic and literary creativity giving the owner exclusive right to use the work and authorize others to use it.
  2. Under S.1 of the Copyright Act, Cap C28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, for a work to be eligible for copyright, sufficient effort must have been put into the work to give it an original character and the work would have to have been fixed in a definite medium of expression from which it can be reproduced.
    Originality here therefore infer that sufficient skill and effort must have been spent on the work to give it a distinct character. Fixation means the work has been put in a particular form of expression from which it can be perceived, reproduced or communicated.
  3. This raises two issues
    A. Whether a substantial part of Danny Young’s work can be found in Tiwa’s song so as to appear to be a copy of it.

B. Whether the line in question fits the requirement of Originality.

On the first issue, the mere alteration of a work alone does not excuse copyright infringement. Under Section 6(2) and Section 15 of the Nigerian Copyright Act, there must have been a copying of the whole or substantial part of a work to result in copyright infringement.
This, Copyright Law protects lyrics so far its substantial, unique and creative.
Comparing the lyrics of both songs show they say the same thing.

The main issue however is the second issue. Are the lyrics unique enough to be protected by Copyright law?

It is important to note that majority of the similarity of the two songs is made up of a very popular and old Yoruba saying or proverb.

After Danny Young first accused Tiwa Savage of lifting his lyrics, he faced a lot of backlash for claiming ownership of a popular Yoruba adage, but Danny Young claims that he went through sufficient effort to add a few more words and rhythm to the proverb.
The fact that the lyrics are a well used proverb makes them not available for Copyright protection. Based on Section 1 of the Copyright Act, the addition of “my life don better” doesn’t prove creativity, originality or uniqueness.

Thus, while Tiwa May have copied the lyrics , they do not meet Copyright protection requirement. This is similar to the Taylor Swift 2014 case involving her single “Shake it Off”. She sang the phrase,
“the players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” and the plaintiffs sang “players, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate”. In assessing the case, the federal judge noted that the lyrics were largely a slang and it was an unoriginal slang.

2 thoughts on “Danny Young v Tiwa Savage, Is there a Copyright Infringement?”

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