Stakeholders in the nation’s music industry have applauded the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and the Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. Afam Ezekude, on the approval of Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/GTE (MCSN as collective society. They said the decision, which has liberalised Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) in Nigeria, would increase employment and boost the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
While speaking separately on the issue in Lagos, renowned female musician, Dame Onyeka Onwenu, described the decision as a welcome development that would allow for a free market place, especially in a democracy like Nigeria.
Onwenu said, “We have tried the sole CMO – Copyright Musical Society of Nigeria (COSON) – and it did not give us what we wanted. We were not seeing the funds collected. I don’t even want to mention the measly amount so far paid. I am aware that some artistes have not received any money at all.
“I am still asking questions. I hope I will not be sued for even voicing an opinion. That seems to be the order of the day. But we will continue to express ourselves. Now, there is competition and an artiste can chose which organisation to work with. We would also like to see a situation where non-rights owners are not allowed to register as members of a CMO. They tend to dilute whatever revenue is accruable to the rights owners.
“A lot of improvement can be made in the management of CMOs. That is why the competition that is now presented, with the approval of MCSN, is, in my opinion, a welcome development.
“I would like to call on MCSN and COSON to give peace a chance, cooperate with each other to iron out any knotty issues and let the industry move forward. It is about time. We have spent far too much money and energy on litigation, when we could have been working positively for the good of rights owners.”
In the same vein, Chairman of Entertainment Foundation of Nigeria, Tee Mac Omatshola Iseli, said the directive of the Attorney-General, which aims at liberalising the business activities of the sector, would create the desired income and wealth, which is presently contributing less than two per cent of the national GDP.
He informed that before now, he could not collect some of his royalties from overseas companies because they were only ready to deal with MSCN because of its previous contracts with over 2,000 collecting agencies outside the country, a facility COSON does not enjoy, being a local player only.
According to him, his banks in England insisted that Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), which then had the sole approval, should go through MSCN to access his royalties, hence his inability to get royalties for his creative works overseas.
Iseli expressed happiness that with the resolution of the rift and subsequent approval granted MCSN, he could easily access his royalties, pay his tax resulting to increased revenue to Nigeria.
This single decision by the government, he said, would result to a dramatic change of fortunes in the music sector.
Another popular musician, Princess Mojisola Balogun, who goes by the stage name Lady Balogun thanked the government for giving musicians an opportunity to make a choice between the two registered collecting societies, saying it is a good omen for the industry. She stressed that the decision has not only revived their works but has given artistes a new lease of life.
Also the chairman of MCSN and renowned musician, Orits Williki, said the decision would address the economic losses within the copyright sector of the Nigerian economy. Williki, who addressed the media on the issue, said the directive of the Attorney-General flows from his powers under Section 50 of the Copyright Act and as the Chief Law Officer of the Federation, as provided for under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He stressed that it was done with a view to doing justice in the copyright sector and to bring the desired change to the sector in line with the economic restructuring policy of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Williki recalled that MCSN has, for many years, been denied approval to operate as a collecting society without any reason given. The refusal, he said, led to huge crisis in the sector and indeed in the entire entertainment sector of the Nigerian economy, which has made the industry not to be able to contribute its quota to the nation’s economy.
He said the entertainment sector, in many democratic and advanced countries, contributes not less than 25 per cent to their various economies, while in Nigeria the sector was reduced to a beggarly status, even with the huge popularity of Nigeria music, films produced (Nollywood).
He said, “It was really worrisome that a sector, which should be basking in huge wealth, was given a grant of N200 million (two hundred million naira) to be accessed as loans by practitioners in the industry.”
The decision of government, he said, did not just come ordinarily like that, but from a painstaking investigation and analysis of the past events in the sector and the Copyright Act
According to him, “The decision and resolutions of the National Assembly in 2013 was also considered and they tallied with the findings of the Honourable Minister before finally giving the directive. Due process was followed as we came to realise that the NCC, which was the Respondent to MCSN’s petition, was engaged by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to respond to the issues contained in MCSN’s complaint.
“In the final analysis, Honourable Minister Malami had to direct and insist that justice and equity be done.”
“We take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation and gratitude to the Federal Government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, and particularly to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, who ensured that the change promised by the government reaches the copyright sector and creators of intellectual property at large.