The Ongoing Saga of Mr Eazi and Bad Bunny's Copyright Infringement Claims
Eariler this month, Mr Eazi called out Puerto Rican star Bad Bunny over the use of a Joeboy song. Both sides have been exchanging accusatory public statements since then.
On Monday, February 6th, Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade, popularly known as Mr Eazi, posted a few tweets that called out Bad Bunny and his team at Rimas for using Joeboy'sartistry without properly crediting him in the song "Enseñame a Bailar," and for "denying [Joeboy] and the producer... their share in a song they wrote composed and even performed in."
The record in question is Joeboy's Empty My Pocket," a happy-go-lucky, rhythmic Afrobeats record released in 2022. Mr Eazi, is demanding Bad Bunny and his record company, Rimas Music, credit and restore rights publishing, songwriting and feature credits on “Enséñame a Bailar,” to Joeboy and emPawa Africa producer Dëra following illegal use of their music on Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti.
On “Enséñame a Bailar,” there are seeming interpolations of Joeboy’s “Empty My Pocket” and direct samplings of Joeboy’s “Empty My Pocket” that according to emPawa Africa, were used by Bad Bunny and his team by without clearance from emPawa Africa.
In a separate string of posts, Mr Eazi states that Joeboy's "Empty My Pocket," was infringed upon, and in a separate LinkedIn post, he calls the incident a case of "ill intent and abuse."
“Our asks have been the same since the beginning,” added Ikenna Nwagboso, Co-Founder and Head of Label Services, Distribution and Publishing with emPawa Africa. “Give Joeboy his credit, publishing and royalties on the song, and give Dëra a producer credit alongside those already given to Bad Bunny’s producers.”
However, according to the emPawa Africa team, despite an initial call and email exchanges with Rimas, where there was never any dispute that Joeboy and Dëra were entitled to publishing, Rimas has failed to negotiate in good faith with emPawa Africa.
“The team at emPawa Africa have attempted to sort this issue amicably since May of last year with our mutual legal teams,” said Mr Eazi . “But the intent ofRimas Music is clearly to blatantly appropriate young African creators' work for their gain without attribution.”
Mr Eazi also stated that infringement on African music has been long-running issues.
“Unfortunately this is part of a broader pattern we see in how the wider music industry approaches the IP [intellectual property] of African artists,” said Mr Eazi, noting a history dating back to Michael Jackson’s adaptation of Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” (on Thriller’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”), and the resulting litigation. "Afrobeats has become a global phenomenon, and everybody wants to sample a piece of it. Unfortunately, Afrobeats artists, their producers and labels often have to pursue legal means to secure publishing and royalties after songs they originally created are co-opted without credit by other artists.”
The Original Call-Out From Mr Eazi
In that LinkedIn post, Mr Eazi writes:
"I am writing this to Highlight Rimas Music and Bad Bunny for the copyright infringement toward afro beats superstar JoeBoy, Denying him and the producer credits and their share in a song they wrote composed and even performed in as Joeboys vocals are used in the Remas released version.
The Team at emPawa Africa have attempted to sort this issue amicably since May of last year with our mutual legal teams. But the intent of Rimas Music is clear ie to blatantly appropriate young African creators' work for their gain without Attribution.
I founded emPawa Africa to protect and support African Creative Entreupreunors and Artists with a virtuous ecosystem. Believing that Afrobeats and Afropop would be today what we wished then it would become.
I am sharing this story even if Plagiarism accusations and copyright infringement lawsuits are nothing new in music, but in this specific case, it is an ill intent of robbery and abuse. As it is taking someone's Song recording it and interacting with condescendence because we are African and independent label?
We understand business, we know the value of our culture and friendships."
In attempt to reach a resolution, emPawa Publishing, the publishing arm of emPawa Africa, and its administrator, Kobalt, have placed the publishing on “Enséñame a Bailar” in dispute, which will halt all revenue payouts from the track until the situation is resolved. Nigeria's Joseph Akinwale, professionally known as Joeboy, got his start in 2017 on Mr Eazi's record label emPawa Africa. His genres, which include Afro-pop and R&B, have made him one of Nigeria's music fan-favorites. Bad Bunny's team is yet to reach out.
\u201cYo @sanbenito you need to tell your lawyers to stop messing around and clear that Joeboy rip off on your album\u201d— Genius (@Genius) 1675675870
\u201cBadbunny @sanbenito incase you are not sure what song I\u2019m talking about \n\nJoeboy song - https://t.co/K6Cx2au7eZ \n\nhttps://t.co/nbstmxjieP ( Your song ) \n\nAin\u2019t no way you produced and sang an Afrobeat record lol\u201d— Genius (@Genius) 1675678107
Bad Bunny's Label Rimas Entertainment Responds
Rimas Entertainment have denied accusations, in a statement shared by Pitchfork they mention that they purchased the master track from producer Lakizo Entertainment, who is listed as the track’s creator and owner in numerous public sources, according to Pitchfork. RImas also state that emPawa have “so far failed to provide proof of ownership.”
Read Rimas full statement underneath:
"We are deeply concerned by the copyright infringement accusations made by Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade (Mr Eazi), the founder of emPawa Africa, on the track "Enséñame a Bailar." We want to make it clear that at all times, Rimas Entertainment has acted properly and has followed standard industry protocols.
Before releasing the aforementioned song, Rimas purchased the master track from record producer Lakizo Entertainment, listed as the track’s creator and owner in numerous public sources. After the song’s release last year, emPawa contacted us, claiming ownership over the master. Our lawyers have had many communications with emPawa in an effort to resolve the ownership dispute between emPawa and Lakizo, but emPawa has so far failed to provide proof of ownership. Instead, emPawa has chosen only to send us a heavily redacted contract that did not confirm their claims and only served to raise more questions about the validity of their claims. Our numerous efforts to obtain the unredacted version of the agreement from emPawa have not been successful. It is entirely untrue that we have been unresponsive. Regarding the song’s composition, emPawa has also failed to forward documents to prove that they are authorized to act on the writer’s behalf.
We look forward to resolving this matter cordially and are waiting for emPawa to provide us with the necessary documents that validate their claims."
Mr Eazi & emPawa Release New Statement
In response to the remarks above made by Rimas Entertainment, Mr Eazi and emPawa have countered again that Rimas failed to secure any publishing clearance and provice any songwriter credit to "the actual creators" of "Empty My Pocket," Joeboy and producer Dëra.
In a recent media statement, Rimas Music asserted that it has “acted properly and followed standard industry protocols” in regards to the sampling and interpolation of Joeboy’s “Empty My Pocket” on Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti track “Enséñame a Bailar.” This is categorically untrue. emPawa Africa is deeply concerned by Rimas’ deflection from its failure to secure any publishing clearance from, and provide any songwriter credit to, the actual creators of “Empty My Pocket,” Joeboy and producer Dëra, whose respective vocals and composition are clearly heard on the song."
"Standard industry protocol involves obtaining clearance on both the master and publishing side before releasing a record that samples and/or significantly interpolates another. No attempt was made at clearing this record on the publishing side prior to the release of “Enséñame a Bailar” on May 6, 2022 and since that date no clearance has been secured or agreed to.
emPawa continues stating thatRimas has only stated that they purchased the master recording from Lakizo Entertainment, not Joeboy or Dera.
See the rest of the emPawa statement below:
"imas Music states that it purchased the master recording from Lakizo Entertainment which, it also states, “is identified in numerous public sources as the track’s creator and owner.” This claim falsely implies that Lakizo Entertainment is the sole creator and owner of “Empty My Pocket.” Joeboy is the sole performer of “Empty My Pocket,” a song which he wrote on a beat composed by Dëra. Lakizo Entertainment’s role in the release of “Empty My Pocket” was as a licensed distributor; In assuming this role, Adesina Lekan (dba Lakizo Entertainment) negotiated the rights to a partial share in the writing and production credit, as well as a partial share in the master. In actuality, Lakizo Entertainment’s only creative contribution to the 2021 master recording of “Empty My Pocket” was adding its “It’s Lakizo, baby” tag at 0:07.
No one should confuse Rimas’ alleged payment to Lakizo Entertainment for the master with a publishing clearance. Nor should they confuse emPawa Africa’s request for composer credit, publishing and royalties for Joeboy and Dëra with a request for the sort of upfront payment Rimas Music states that it made to Lakizo Entertainment."
emPawa Africa has made it clear that it has never asked for any cash compensation, only respect for Joeboy and Dëra’s intellectual property.
Rimas’ statement argues “emPawa failed to forward documents to prove that they are authorized to act on the writer’s behalf.” Proof that emPawa Publishing, the publishing arm of emPawa Africa, represents Joeboy, as well as Dëra, is demonstrated in the same public sources (i.e. any performing rights database) through which Rimas apparently determined Lakizo Entertainment’s claim to master ownership. Furthermore, these same public sources also list Joeboy and Dëra as legal creators and owners of the song, alongside Lakizo. The inference by Rimas Music that emPawa Africa should provide Rimas with the entirety of its contracts with Joeboy or Dëra is absurd, and inconsistent with standard industry practices.
If Rimas was truly unaware of this relationship, it would not have contacted Kobalt, the administrator for emPawa Publishing, seeking to obtain publishing clearance after the song’s release. Instead of acknowledging our subsequent proposal, it opted recently to register its preferred publishing split without clearance or approval from emPawa. Since doing so, Rimas has not responded to further publishing conversations or queries. It was this action which prompted Kobalt, acting on behalf of emPawa Publishing, to place the publishing on “Enséñame a Bailar” in dispute.
We look forward to resolving this matter cordially with Rimas Music.
We'll keep you updated here as things play out between Mr Eazi, Bad Bunny and their teams.