Laws of the jungle

In the recent past, we have experienced a couple of musicians’ songs being muted or deleted from YouTube. The latest singers to be affected are Kahu$h and Chris Kaiga, whose Mastingo was muted a few days after talented singer Nadia Mukami’s, Tesa, was re-uploaded.

Many songs are muted or deleted from YouTube as a result of a copyright claim from the original music’s creator. This means that you can avoid receiving such claims by getting permission from the creator to upload their music. Contact the artiste to discuss what you need to do to upload her song. Trying to claim fair use, giving credit to the creator or purchasing the content yourself is not the same as getting permission, and your video can still be taken down.

Kenyan music producer Magix Enga, hit the headlines earlier this year when he took down American hip hop star Tekashi 6ix9ine’s music video for “Gooba” from YouTube for copyright infringement. In a social media post, he warned, “Don’t sample my beats. Biggest song deleted by Magix Enga.” The takedown did not take long as 6ix9ine’s team filed a counterclaim. Hours after Magix Enga’s claim, the music video was back streaming on YouTube. 

“About the story that is trending, y’all need to know that he did not sample my beats, he used just one of my sample kits. I have my own sample kits and I uploaded them six years ago. Only producers can understand this. So YouTube had to take that song down, and because I don’t want to fight I decided to put that song back on YouTube after receiving some cash and I want to give that money to those who can’t afford a meal today” he wrote on Instagram.

Copyright strikes serve a crucial purpose for YouTube, preventing protected material from being used without authorisation. This is problematic for artistes despite the fact that you can still appeal the decision although the process itself is cumbersome as Nadia Mukami notes: “ I believe there are no proper copyright rules since once you get a copyright strike even if you are right, you must send a counter-notification, which is a legal procedure and will take 14 working days before YouTube proves you are not wrong, this process slowed the growth of Tesa. I also lost money, but I am glad the song is back up again."

Most of the time, producers are generally on the receiving end, a notion that Ricco Beatz does not buy. Professionally, a producer is supposed to categorically state that he sampled some instrumentals; if the artiste cannot clear the sample should leave the beat.

“It is not always the producers’ fault that videos get flagged. The producer is not responsible for any clearance of any samples they use, but in the scenario that he samples anything, be it the melody or a guitar loop it is upon them to disclose that fact before he/she sells the beat to the artiste. In such a scenario, the artiste carries the baggage to clear It once they decide to buy the beat,” he says. When P-unit dropped their single ‘You Guy’ you couldn’t help, but notice the same beats were used in Chaka Demus and Pliers ‘Bam Bam’. Ethic dropped their single ‘ Figa’ and a majority of netizens pointed fingers at Motif for allegedly not being too original.

“Sometimes we reuse a part of an existing song in another song. I do sample beats sometimes, but I do not like the outcome being too identified with the original, where anyone will be able to know or tell where I have sampled from. If I’m requested to do it, I flip the whole creation around and maintain the vibe,” explained Ricco Beatz.

When such acts are committed it is advised to always credit the necessary names as well as cough up some amount of money. A scenario which happened when Jack Rooster — while working on his Album ‘Nyumba’ — had to pay Sh100,000 to Ultra music to get permission to use the sample.

A four-second guitar loop can bring irredeemable difference “a claim can be as minute as ever, but still warrants deletion. No matter how small. It is mostly advisable to reach out before giving the copyright strike and pull it down because if YouTube does not agree with your claim after three such incidences your channel faces closure,” advises Ricco Beatz.

There are channels to be followed before sampling a track, to avoid any legal battles later on. Sampling without permission infringes on copyright. One needs to get permission so as to be able to sample a certain track, and this is what we call sample clearance. It is in most cases costly and can involve a quite long process, warns Ricco Beatz.