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How Stephen Muoka’s 'Elupee' is Shaking Up Copyright Law: A Case Study on Protecting Viral Music Works

How Stephen Muoka’s 'Elupee' is Shaking Up Copyright Law: A Case Study on Protecting Viral Music Works


Stephen Muoka, a skit maker, and a stern follower of the Nigerian presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, went viral during the counting of the Labour Party's votes at a polling unit in Enugu, Nigeria. As the votes were being counted, Stephen added a musical flow, and his rendition of "Elupee" went viral. Today, we have many adaptations of the Elupee chant, ranging from animated videos, public performances, music features, remixes, and more.

However, some of the adapted Elupee works were created without Stephen's consent, leaving a significant question: What rights does he have over the viral video, if any? In this article, we will explore this question and discuss the opportunities available for Stephen Muoka to protect and monetise his viral video.

Are viral music copyrightable?

For a music work to enjoy copyright protection in Nigeria, two essential elements must be present: originality and fixation. Originality means that sufficient effort has been expended on making the work to give it an original character. Fixation requires that the music work is fixed in a definite medium of expression from which it can be perceived, reproduced, or communicated either directly or with the aid of any machine or device.

In Stephen's case, he was fortunate to have a friend who captured the moment, which brought him to the limelight. However, imagine that there was no one to video record Stephen's rendition; the fixation requirement would not have been met. The effect of that would be that if Stephen met, for example, a P-Square performing his Elupee song, he may not have any chance of laying a claim since the moment was not captured in a fixed medium.

Many skit makers and content creators have misconceptions when it comes to the subject of "what is copyrightable." They believe that a work must be registered first before claiming ownership, which is not the case. Copyright is sticky, and in essence, one has copyright over a work the moment it is created. Furthermore, creativity is relative so you don’t have to crack your brain too much. You also do not need to create something entirely new (copyright is not patent), and the length of a video does not matter in copyright.

The idea of authorship in viral videos where the performer/singer was aided by other people

Stephen's viral video involves at least three different characters: Stephen Muoka, who did most of the singing, his friend who video-recorded the moment, and the members of the public who were counting the votes. All these characters contributed to the production of the viral video, raising the question of who owns the copyright in the viral video.

While Stephen did the substantial part of the rendition, his friend did a private recording of the scene. That friend can lay claim to his private device and the recordings but cannot monetise or distribute the video to the public, especially for commercial gains. The members of the public were merely counting votes, and there was nothing original about their act. Stephen, on the other hand, was the force behind everything original in that moment, making him the strongest claimant to the authorship of the viral video.

What opportunities does the ELUPEE viral video present for Stephen Muoka?

Stephen Muoka has stumbled upon a potential goldmine with his ELUPEE viral video. But what can he do to capitalise on this sudden burst of fame? For starters, he can leverage the popularity of the video to attract the attention of record labels and publishers.

By working with a record label, Stephen can get assistance with promoting the video and exploring its commercial potential. He can also protect the composition by creating a sound recording and registering it with the relevant authorities. Another option is to create a slang out of it, like ELUPEE, which could become a cultural phenomenon and increase the video's visibility.

How can Stephen make money from the ELUPEE viral video?

There are numerous ways for Stephen Muoka to monetise the ELUPEE viral video. For example, he can earn revenue from streaming services like YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music. He can also consider licensing the composition for use in movies, TV shows, and commercials. This is where a publisher comes in handy - they can manage the public use of his composition (lyrics and melody) and negotiate favorable licensing agreements on his behalf.

Alternatively, Stephen may opt to partner with a record label that can help him generate revenue from live performances, merchandise sales, and other revenue streams. With a solid agreement in place that protects his interests, Stephen can create a sustainable income stream from his viral video.

In conclusion, the ELUPEE viral video presents Stephen Muoka with a unique opportunity to achieve fame and financial success. However, it's important that he takes the right steps to protect his intellectual property and negotiate favorable deals. What do you think about Stephen Muoka's viral video? Share your thoughts in the comments below.