Mantse may have moral right to the song Obrafour is suing Drake for but he does not have the economic right  – Legal Expert


A Ghanaian private legal practitioner and intellectual property expert, Lawyer Kwabena Mensah has provided legal context regarding the dispute over ownership of the economic and moral rights to Obrafuor’s ‘Oye Ohene’ Remix.

Obrafuor whose lawyers are suing Canadain Rapper and OVO Sound founder, Drake for  $10 million for sampling his song without permission has been met with stiff resistance from Co-creator and producer, Mantse Nii Aryeequaye.

The Chief Executive Officer of Chale Wote Street Arts Festival revealed that it was his voice that was sampled on the ‘Calling My Name’ track which did not give Obrafour the rights to file the case in New York Courts without his foreknowledge.

But providing clarity to the matter in the context of the law, Lawyer Mensah said the issue at hand is whether the owner of the moral rights to a piece of music also has the economic right to it.

In this particular case, it appears that the artist Mantse may have the moral right to the music in question, but Obrafour has the economic right.

“You may be recognised as a contributor which gives you the moral right but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you own the economic right,” he told 3News in an exclusive interview

Mensah explains that the economic right is the right to receive monetary value from the music, while the moral right is the right to be recognized as a contributor to the creation of the work. These two rights are not necessarily held by the same person, and the ownership of each right can have significant implications for those involved

“It purely depends on who owns the economic right, it may be that he recorded the ‘Killer Cut’ part but as to who owns the economic right to the whole body of work that is a different conversation,” he explained

While the issue at hand is not a clear-cut one, the renowned Entertainment Lawyer makes it clear that it is important for artists to understand the difference between the moral and economic rights of their work.

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In particular, he notes that when artists sign with a record label, they often assign their economic rights in exchange for an advance or share of royalties. This means that while they may retain the moral right to the music, the economic right belongs to the label.

“You may have the moral right but it doesn’t mean you have the economic right. If they were signed to a record label what the artiste will do is assign their economic rights in exchange for an advance or share of royalties so in that case the moral right belongs to the artiste that created the song but the economic right belongs to the label”

Mensah who expressed enthusiasm for how artistes were testing the wheels of justice said, “It is good that people are taking their Intellectual Property Rights seriously”





Earlier on Wednesday, April 19, Robert Freund, a lawyer for brands, agencies, and creators shared in court documents on social media a lawsuit by Ghanaian rapper, Obrafour who was seeking “at least $10 million in damages” against Drake for alleged copyright infringements.

“Obrafour says Drake’ previously sought permission to use the work, didn’t get it, and released the track days later anyway.”

Lawyers of Obrafuor who filed the case in the Southern District of New York are asking the court to enter into judgment that the “Defendant willfully infringed Obrafour’s Copyrighted Work in violation of the Copyright Act” among other reliefs

Drake joins a list of Hollywood artists who have faced similar lawsuits for unauthorized use of samples, including Kanye West, Robin Thicke, and Pharrell Williams.



  1. Just to shed some light on Rights Ownership.

    a. Intellectual Property Rights and or Copyrights are Transferable – a Rights Owner can transfer or assign their Rights to another person or entity and that person or entity becomes the Rights Holder having the right to exploit those rights for economic gain.

    b. Moral Rights are not transferable.

    On matters concerning Music Composition and Music Composer Rights Ownership, if anything was agreed on paper that clearly stipulates the music composer had composed and arranged the music without any “contribution” or “input” from a Song Writer who may, or may not be the Performer of “Parts” of the song or the “Full” song then clarity has to be provided to ascertain sole Rights Ownership or Co-Ownership of the Composed Music and that’s even before we can delve into matters of Rights Ownership of the final recording affixed with the Performance or Performances of one or more Performers.

    NOTE: This brings us to why contracts are very important because we may have a music or a film industry but a contract is what creates a Music or Film Economy.

    For clarity a Song Writer writes lyrical content and has Publishing Rights and Reserved Moral Rights – the songwriter “may” be a Rights Owner or a Rights / Intellectual Property Owner – if however the Song Composer was engaged under “Work For Hire” rule a.k.a paid to write for the Performer, the Producer or the Executive Producer then the Song Witer Retains the Moral Right and unless specifically agreed in a Contract to be otherwise, the Economic Rights and Ownership of the Song is transfered the Performer or Producer or Executive Producer that paid for the song composition and that’s only because the Song Composer was simply hired and paid to Compose the Song.

    If the Song Writer also happens to be the Performer of the Song and the Performer’s Performance was affixed to the Audio Recording of the Final Composed Piece of Music (The Track) – the Moral Rights of the Song Writer / Performer is reserved and not transferable – but the Song Writer/Performer maintains their transferable Performance Rights as a Performance Right Owner and unless it is expressly agreed in a Contract that the transferable Rights were created under “Work for Hire” rule, then whomsoever engaged the Song Writer and Performer to write and to also perform the song retains the Ownership of all Tranferable Rights minus the non transferable rights a.k.a Moral Rights. We can now begin to see the importance of Contract.

    If the Producer and Executive Producer happens to be Obrafuor and he was producing content for a single track or an album and in the process he featured ManTse under “Work for Hire” a.k.a paid ManTse to Compose a piece and also perform same on the track, alongside Obrafuor’s Performance on the same track and all that was agreed and was also stipulated in a Contract, then Obrafuor retains all economic rights and Moral Right for his part of the performance affixed onto the final recording and ManTse also retains his Moral Rights for his parts of the song he composed and also performed on the track – they both maintain their individual Performance Rights.

    The question of Publishing Rights and Rights to Royalties and other Economic Rights and gains from all sales and not returned, is largely dependent on what was agreed and hopefully put in writing or implied.

    The other aspect that needs to come under the lense is if Mantse was paid a fee as consideration to compose and perform the song on the track and that payment was to serve as “a Performance Fee” with no more or with attached clause to participate in future earnings, or as “an Advance Fee” with attached clause to participate in future earnings, or as “full and final payment” for writing the song and also performing the song and having all that affixed to the final track with no more by way of future earnings derived from any and all forms of exploitation of the track.

    The best that could ever happen will be dependent on the facts of the matter as it applies to what was agreed or implied between Obrafuor and Man Tse – at best, share the proceeds if any; by some ratio and let the law be the ultimate winner.

    The most important thing is for all Rights Owners in the Music and Film Industry to push for mandatory clauses to be appended to Ghana’s Copyrights Act 2005 and Regulations and to continue to push the sector ministry to engage Music and Film Industry Stakeholder Groups and the drafters at the Attorney General’s Office to finalise the Legislative Instrument in support of Act 935 – Ghana will then begin to see the benefits of strengthening Ghana’s Creative Economy.


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