AKA in copyright mess over 80s song sample

13 August 2018 - 12:57
By Aubrey Mothombeni
Image: Moeletsi Mabe AKA

Popular rapper AKA's record label Universal Music South Africa has been slapped with a copyright lawsuit by one of the members of an 80s group called Future over a song the rapper sampled.

The legal battle that began in 2016 is over AKA's song, titled One Time, which Enos Thembinkosi Lubisi claims was adapted from his hit song, Party Weekend.

Also drawn into the legal dispute is Sony Music South Africa, which Lubisi alleges is trying to hijack the copyrights of the song by claiming that he signed over its rights to them.

Lubisi filed court papers at the South Gauteng High Court on Wednesday stating that he never gave permission either to AKA or his record label to adapt his song.

According to court papers, the musician and producer asked the court to declare him the sole copyright-holder of the song, including AKA's adaptation of it, stating that he had not assigned them any copyrights or permission to rework it.

According to a Daily Sun report, AKA, whose real name is Kiernan Forbes, earlier acknowledged using some of Lubisi's work from his song Party Weekend and offered to apologise to him for not crediting the 68-year-old producer. In the same report, AKA claimed that he wanted to credit the producer, but struggled to locate Lubisi.

In court papers filed this week, Lubisi said he composed Party Weekend in 1984 and was its sole copyright holder and author.

The papers claim that the song was recorded under MINC music and EMI was used for publishing purposes.

"The standing agreement in terms of sharing proceeds of the musical work was 25% in favour of the publishing company and 75% in favour of the artist..." reads the papers.

Lubisi said he was in a taxi travelling to town one day when he heard AKA's One Time and recognised the beat and sample of his song.

According to his affidavit, Lubisi had since entered into agreement with AKA and Universal Music South Africa to share the proceeds generated by AKA's song in terms of violation of his copyright.

However, he said Sony Music South Africa has since resurfaced by telling Universal that the song belonged to them after Lubisi signed over the song to MINC. According to Sony, MINC ceded all their rights to EMI, which was eventually taken over by Sony.

The Protea Glen-based producer denies this: "Sony Music wants to unlawfully divest me of my right over the song."

Lubisi pleaded to the court to declare him the sole holder of the copyrights, saying that failure to do so will see him losing all rights to a company he never dealt with at any stage of his musical career.

Ryan Hill of Universal Music said they were under the impression that Lubisi had reached an agreement to give the artist 60% of the composer rights to the track.

"This was signed by Universal and AKA and was sent to Sony for their [perusal] and Lubisi's signature. Universal has not been advised by anybody that the dispute was not resolved," Hill said. Sony Music's legal department said they did not receive any court papers and could not comment.