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Background story

Phyno is much loved by Nigerians because of his unique style of music and creativity. His song ‘I’m a fan’ featuring Mr. Eazi and Decarlo released in 2016 as part of his “The Playmaker” album was an instant hit. I personally like the song.

That song has however become the source of much controversy recently. American singer and songwriter, Pia Mia released a version of the song in May 2017 featuring singer Jeremih. Due to the striking similarity in Phyno and Pia Mia’s version of the song, there have been allegations of infringement of copyright by Pia Mia. Nigerians have taken to troll the American singer on social media.

You can listen to both versions here. Phyno is yet to give details on this and reacting to reports that he co-produced the song with Pia-Mia’s producer, has said his lawyers are involved.

Arguments on who produced it and whether it was a fall out of co-owners of the song aside, here are 3 things you should take away from the Phyno-PiaMia controversy.

Establish your content is original

Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films and broadcasts are entitled to copyright protection. Your content has to be original not a copy of someone else’s song or artistical work. Where sufficient effort has been expended on making the work to give it an original character, it becomes the sole property of the Owner. Only the Owner can transmit the work by testamentary disposition or by operation of law. The Owner has an exclusive right over the work and it is unlawful for any other person to reproduce, publish, translate, perform in public, make, rent, lease, hire, broadcast, adapt or tamper with the work without the Owner’s licence or assignment.

It also has to have been fixed in a definite medium. You need not have registered it as copyright unlike other forms of intellectual property does not require registration for validity.

Protection Is Key- Contact your lawyer

Negotiation is the first course of action. Owners may demand compensation for use of their work and the immediate cessation of the infringement. They can also demand delivery of all original and copies of the infringed work or an agreement for use of their work in future.However, if the other person is unwilling to stop the infringement or withdraw the infringing material despite notice, you may need to get an injunction from the courts or sue for damages.

Because of our reciprocity agreements with other countries, copyright recognised in Nigeria can be enforced internationally and vice versa in countries signed up to certain international agreements

Also, while registration for copyright protection is not a condition for the validity of your copyright as it exists the moment the work was created, it may go a mile in helping protect it in the event of infringement due to these reasons.

You can register your work with the Nigerian Copyright Commission. You also need to realise that you have a right against everyone else to reap the benefit from your work as long as it suits the criteria above. Do not hesitate to seek adequate remuneration for use of your material and compensation for infringement of your copyrights.

You can co-own copyright with others

Where you co-authored a work with someone else, it is important to keep records of it as you might be co-owners

To be co-owners of a copyrighted work, each author must contribute copyright-able subject matter to the work. Each contribution must comply with the originality requirement and other and must not be simply ideas, refinements and suggestions.  There has to be intention, at the time the writing is done, that the parts be absorbed or combined into a single, whole unit.

Each co-owner has an independent right to use or license the use of the copyright in an independently created work without the need to obtain the consent of the other co-owners. He may however need to render account to his co-owner


In the Phyno-Pia-Mia case, they would need to determine if the song was intended to be co-owned in terms of their contributions to the production.


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