Nigerians enjoy Moremi on YouTube, as copyright ownership battle rages

by Araayo Akande

Despite the controversy over the actual ownership of the intellectual copyright, thousands of Nigerians on Sunday evening hooked up as Bolanle Austen-Peters (BAP) Productions streamed ‘Moremi the Musical’ on its YouTube channel.

Well over 4,000 viewers took advantage of the streaming to watch the musical first staged in December 2018 and as evident from comments they left as it progressed, thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

But this is even as controversy continues to rage over the ownership of the production between Austen-Peters and the House of Oduduwa owned by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi.

The House of Oduduwa had earlier kicked against the proposed streaming, claiming it owned the rights to the production and that showing it online is a breach of the agreement. It further noted that streaming it online could affect all aspirations of the Queen Moremi Ajasoro Initiative and deny it expected future revenues.

But Austen-Peters had countered and asserted her intellectual rights to the acclaimed stage production. She had through TerraKulture’s Manager and producer of the debut show, Joseph Umoibom, affirmed that she owns it from script to actualisation. 

“From script to actualisation, Bolanle Austen-Peters was the driving force behind the acclaimed Moremi the Musical, which made its debut at Terrakulture Arena in December 2018,” Umoibom said, further accusing the House of Oduduwa of duplicity.
But the House of Oduduwa is not relenting. Its Vice-Chair, Princess Ronke Ademiluyi has accused Austen-Peters of falsehood and warned she would suffer the legal consequence of streaming the musical on YouTube unlawfully.

Ademiluyi, who insisted in a statement that Austen-Peters does not own the rights, also narrated how they came about their collaboration and how it soured. 
Her statement read:  

“Mrs Bolanle Austen- Peters did not tell the world the full story of her infringement of Intellectual Property Rights in Moremi the Musical written, produced and performed under an agreement between Bolanle Austen Peters Productions (BAP) and House of Oduduwa Foundation (HoOF). 

“In September 2018, the two parties entered into an agreement where BAP was commissioned to adapt and deliver the Moremi script for the stage performance of Moremi The Musical in Nigeria and abroad.

“BAP was fully paid for delivering the stage performances including payment for the use of its TerraKulture venue. 

“In due recourse to Mrs Austen-Peters, the play was billed to continue in December 2019. However, Mrs Bolanle Austen-Peters refused to participate because she was busy with other plans. We pleaded with her to no avail. We had paid for the venue. She told us to cancel. We had no other choice than to commission another production company with their choreography, music and direction to deliver the stage performance at InterContinental, at a huge additional cost to HoOF. 

“The question we asked ourselves was: Should we be stuck with Mrs Austen-Peters’ programmes or preferences when we knew we own the intellectual property rights and we could commission new production, especially after her refusal? 

“That was the disagreement we had with BAP, or so we thought it was the only disagreement. Little did we know she could go to the extent of & as far as embarking on streaming the play on YouTube when she knew that was far outside her domain because she did not own the IP rights.

“It is unfortunate that those who ought to know better can choose to embark on actions in breach of the law. 

“For the avoidance of doubt, BAP does not own the Intellectual Property Rights in Moremi The Musical, and she could not have owned the rights in the original script or the trademark – “Queen Moremi Ajansoro” belonging to the HoOF, neither does she have the right to exploit the work in the digital media as she has flagrantly done in what she has called her’ version of the play’. 

“No ethical entity in the creative or any industry at all would tread that path in infringement of Intellectual Property Rights if they are not under the impression that they are above the law. It is now her lot to rush to the public arena to justify her unlawful and illegal act.

“We promise every well-meaning lover of arts that we will not allow this unlawful act to stand, not to the utter disdain on the office of Ooni & the House of Oduduwa Foundation.”

Curiously, it is emerging that the House of Oduduwa does not itself own the intellectual rights to Moremi.
One Olayinka Fatima Edu, the Chief Executive Officer of Platinum Entertainment, is said to own it. She reportedly took the idea of the Moremi Beauty Pageant, musical and book to the Ooni in 2016 but was later side-tracked. 

TCN is trying to reach her for her side of the story.  

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