Nonini, Clemmo differ over Sh1m award in ‘We Kamu’ copyright case

Rapper Nonini (Hubert Nakitare) and producer Clemmo (Clement Rapudo Sijenyi).

Rapper Nonini (Hubert Nakitare) and producer Clemmo (Clement Rapudo Sijenyi).

Photo credit: Pool

It seems there is a storm brewing between rapper Nonini (Hubert Nakitare) and his long-time friend and former producer Clemmo (Clement Rapudo Sijenyi).

In an interview with SPM Buzz, Clemmo vented about not getting any financial compensation following Nonini’s win on a copyright infringement case over the use of his hit song We Kamu.

Clemmo says he should also get some monetary compensation as he produced the song.

But it seems Clemmo and Nonini never signed any papers regarding the music they did together, putting the producer in a tight position to demand for his Intellectual Property (IP) rights.

“Someone got paid or rather a judgment got passed and someone was favoured and got paid some money for work that I did. So my question is this, did you see anywhere that Clemmo was mentioned? So that track is my track; it is my idea; and I did not get paid,” Clemmo said.

“Someone comes and conveniently tells you that there is not contract between the two of us, but does that mean that the work is his? But I can’t go for that cash I am above that…the thing is, I am trying to think about these other producers; how much are they suffering.”

Nonini, however, did not seem happy about Clemmo’s comments, going as far as suggesting that the producer should go to court if he is not satisfied with the court ruling.

“Ignorance sometimes huwa mbaya. Ngojeni kwanza nimalizane na influencer and the company then nikuje ni deal nah ii uala yenyu. You do know every citizen has the right to appeal any court decision as per our constitution,” Nonini said.

“Also, if you feel your rights were infringed, you are at liberty to open a suit against the two, influencer and company, but court systems are about facts not emotional outbursts on social media. You have got to prove your case.”

He further added, “I have invested my time and resources in the suit…you can do the same. Hii mambo haitaki uzembe (This process is not for the lazy), are we clear? Also I can be petty about so many things if you want us to go down that road. In the meantime, kuna mention about this case tomorrow let me focus.”

On March 23, 2023, the Milimani Commercial Magistrate’s Courts ruled in favour of Nonini in a copyright case, ordering social media influencer Brian Mutinda to pay the artiste Sh1 million in general damages as well as take down a video at the heart of the suit from all social media platforms.

Nonini’s lawsuit was filed after Mutinda featured the We Kamu hit song in a video advert that promoted the latest television sets of the brand Syinix. The artiste said his song was used without his consent or authorisation, leading to him seek redress in court last year.

Soon after the ruling, Nonini expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the lawsuit and took to his social media to celebrate the ruling.

Nonini’s official statement read, “Today, March 23, 2023, will go down in history (Year of the Jordan) and is a win for the Kenyan music industry #Mgenge2ru Vs the people who used my song We Kamu to push a product. #CopyrightShallBeRespected.”

Nonini further noted that he had been involved in several copyright infringement cases running for years.

One of those times was back in 2014 when the Kenya Wildlife Service had to pay him for using the same in a TV commercial. The animated advert used the lyrics of We Kamu (You come) urging Kenyans to visit national parks and other tourist sites in the country during the festive season. He however did not reveal how much he was paid.

The issue of copyrights and IP rights has been a bone of contention between artistes in the music industry.

According to lawyer Robert Asewe, who is also the founder of Music Advocate Africa, most local artistes are not honest with each other when it comes to music ownership.

In Music Copyright, he says, there are two major rights: the sound recording or what people call master sound recording, and the song writing. Master copyright is tied to the record label or the person who sponsors the recording of the song.

“Sometimes you will find artistes who do not have money to go to a studio to record, so someone bankrolls them, and they automatically acquire some interest to that music, by virtue that they have put money to go to that studio. A contract needs to be signed here but a lot of people do not,” Mr Asewe said.

“In the case of Clemmo and Nonini, I would hope that the two probably sat down and figured out who owns what and signed contracts to that effect. Because if it was Clemmo’s studio that was used and he was the one who was making the beats or managed the studio where the song was recorded, then he definitely owns some rights to whatever music he produced with Nonini,” he said.

If that is the case then Clemmo would own part of the master rights to the song We Kamu, which is in dispute, and this means he is entitled to any form of royalty shares that would come from that song.

“If it is the sound recording bit, here we are talking about the person who wrote the lyrics probably contributed to the composition of the song then these people are also entitled to get royalty from the song. A song can have several owners like in a collaboration, but if the parties did not have a proper agreement in writing as to who owns what, then the law deems them to be equal partners,” he explains.

That is why Mr Asewe says for professional artistes a split sheet is important, which basically tells what each particular contributor owns.

“Unfortunately, many of our artistes do not operate under these professional terms. You will find that some of them collaborated in a song that is doing well but because of poor documentation they cannot claim rights or shares to that song,” he said.

If a legal contract or document is not available on share allocation of a song, a number of things can happen.

For instance, he says, Nonini can claim that he paid for studio time and therefore he owns the rights to the master recording. And as the owner of the master, he can license the song and Clemmo would not have a share to the song.

“Despite Clemmo being the producer of the song, involved in beat creation and composition of the song, if he did not secure that in writing then he would definitely have to prove in court. That is why it is advisable that an artiste, before embarking on any music project, they should back it up with documentation,” Mr Asewe said.

According to Mr Asewe the industry would be ripe with music copyright infringement cases, the only challenge is that most artistes are too broke to sustain a law suit.