Tecno and Kenyan rapper Nyashinski are being sued for copyright infringement by Nigerian producer Sam Eli Are over an endorsement deal worth millions of shillings.
In court documents, Sam Eli accuses Nyashinski of using the hit song ‘Wach Wach’, which he produced the beats, to promote and endorse Tecno Mobile’s latest device.
Eli states that as the song producer used in the Tecno commercials by Nyashinski, he is entitled to a percentage of the earnings made from the endorsement deal. However, his effort to have what is rightfully his has proven futile.
Nyashinski bagged the multimillion-shilling deal with Tecno in May this year when he was appointed the brand ambassador of their latest smartphone, the Tecno Camon 20.
According to the Saturday Nation, the deal is to the tune of Sh12 million, even though this could not be independently verified.
In civil case, number E617/2023, Sam Ali, a postgraduate student residing in Kenya, cites music production and composition as his hobby.
The court documents say that sometime in 2020, Sam Eli was in the studio in Nairobi composing music when Nyashinski walked in. That was the first time the two met. At the time, Nyashinski was recording his then-album ‘Lucky You’ at the same studio.
The album was released that same year. Impressed by Sam Eli’s creativity, Nyashinski requested some beats from the studio’s owner (not mentioned in the documents), and a number of the Nigerian’s producer beats were sent to the Mungu pekee hit-maker as part of the batch.
“He picked out the beat originally titled Low_Tint_70 which the plaintiff (Sam Eli) had composed earlier that year. A few days later, the 1st defendant then went to the studio to record the song, which ended up being titled Wach Wach.
“The 1st defendant team sent over the split sheet contract, which the plaintiff signed and sent back to them to also sign and send back the plaintiff’s copy of the duly signed agreement by both parties. The plaintiff avers that the 1st defendant has not sent back the same to date even upon the plaintiff’s requesting for the same via email,” reads part of the court documents.
According to the split sheet contract terms, Nyashinski owns 100 percent master rights in the popular song, Wach Wach, while the publishing rights in the song were split equally at 50 percent between Sam Eli and Nyashinski.
The Nigerian producer says that in late May or early June this year, he learned from friends and relatives that his production, Wach Wach, was being used on multiple advertisements by Tecno, including on-screen billboards, national television stations, and YouTube.
Sam Eli says he immediately contacted Nyashinski, inquiring how his composition was published without his knowledge, but that the rapper informed him that as far as he was concerned, he owns 100 percent of the master rights.
Sam Eli then informed Nyashinski that by virtue of the publishing agreement, he could not enter into a publishing deal on his own as they jointly own publishing rights to the Wach Wach song, and as such, the use of the record amounted to a publishing deal which as the producer, he is entitled to 50 percent of whatever amount he was paid.
However, Nyashinski’s team disagreed with Sam Eli’s argument, he then on June 26th, 2023, instructed his legal team to write a demand letter to both Nyashinski and Tecno seeking to know how much the endorsement deal was worth and demanded that he be paid his 50 percent as part of the publishing rights pact.
Nyashinski’s legal team, Humphrey & Company LLP (H&C) refused to disclose the sum paid to their client, citing the privacy of the contract. “Our client deal with Tecno Mobile is not a publishing deal as indicated by yourselves. It includes image rights, appearance, interviews, photo/video shoots, travel time, and social media associations. You’d certainly appreciate that your client has nothing to do with all these; his demand for 50 percent of the deal value with Tecno Mobile is entirely misguided.”
Nyashinski then offered to pay Sam Eli Sh50,000 and have the matter settled, an offer the producer declined.
“On account of the fact that your client owns half the publishing rights of the song Wach Wach, our client offers to yours Sh50,000 as full and final payment for its use by Tecno Mobile. Take note that your client will be deemed to have declined this offer if not accepted within 7 days of this letter,” the letter stated.
Sam Eli termed the offer an insult and has since proceeded to take the matter to the Milimani Commercial Court where he wants the court to find Tecno liable or “illegally” synchronizing his composition without his license, consent, and approval, which amounts to copyright infringement.