Veteran Ghanaian musician Obrafour has sued Canadian hip hop artist Drake for alleged copyright infringement.
In a lawsuit filed at the Southern District Court of New York in the US on 18 April, Obrafour claims Drake sampled his 2003 song ‘Oye Ohene (Remix)’ on ‘Calling My Name’ without his consent.
‘Oye Ohene’ features fellow Ghanaian rapper Tinny and was released to widespread acclaim in Ghana, while ‘Calling My Name’ is taken from Drake’s seventh studio album Honestly, Nevermind, which was released last year.
Drake is reported to have tried to secure the rights to use the sample just days before releasing the song but proceeded with its release without obtaining Obrafour’s permission. Despite his ownership of the copyright, Obrafour alleges that Drake used the sample without his permission, recognition or compensation.
In the lawsuit, Obrafour is requesting a permanent injunction that would require the defendants to cease all direct and indirect infringement of his rights. Obrafour is also asking for a variety of damages, including profits from record sales, downloads, ringtones, public performance revenues, digital revenue, streaming revenue and merchandising.
“Not only is [Obrafour] proud of the creative work that went into his song, but he is also the lawful owner of the copyright behind it, both in Ghana, and here in the United States,” a statement from Obrafour’s representatives reads. “Unfortunately, this ownership was not respected by the internationally known music artist Drake, who sampled it directly on one of his recent hits, ‘Calling My Name’. Drake did so without getting permission from Obrafour to use the song, without giving any credit to Obrafour, and without compensating Obrafour for its use.
“In fact, mere days before Drake released ‘Calling My Name’, he tried to secure the rights to use the sample. But rather than waiting to make sure Obrafour gave permission, which Obrafour did not, Drake released the song regardless. Obrafour now seeks the respect, recognition, and compensation he deserves for use of his creative work.”
Other damages sought by Obrafour include compensation for public appearances, endorsements, sponsorships, touring revenue, advertising revenue, appearance fees, name and likeness income, and an increase in the value of the defendants’ publishing and record company catalogues.
In addition, Obrafour is seeking damages for increased value in social media rights, accounts and value, goodwill, promotional value and the value of obtaining better terms for record company advances and multi-record deals. The musician is also requesting damages for increased value in negotiating 360 deals with record companies and/or publishers.
Obrafour is requesting an award of damages including actual damages, and the profits of the defendants. He is also requesting an award of statutory damages amounting to $150 000 for each act of infringement, compensatory and special damages, attorneys’ fees and full costs, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, and damages of not less than $10m.
Obrafour says he hopes to “send a message to mainstream international artists that you cannot simply take from an artist who may be lesser known, or in another country, without giving credit where credit is due.”