Music Licensing and its Attendant Controversies in Nigeria.
Music, like most artistic, literary and creative works, is an intellectual property (IP), that needs to be protected and all its attendant economic benefits exploited by the creatives.
Music creators (song writers, producers, composers) are entitled to royalties as proceeds for use of their musical works or sound recordings (intellectual property) in commercial settings.
Users of music, especially restaurants, clubs, hotels, shopping malls, live performers, and other public users who consume music without obtaining copyright license, do so illicitly.
However, the Nigerian copyright laws makes room for the fair usage of copyright materials without first obtaining the consent or permission of the copyright holder in cases where the use is for non-commercial, educational, research purposes, review, or criticism and in reporting current events.
The Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), albeit enmeshed in perennial controversies, and leadership tussles, collects monies from public/commercial users, such as clubs, hotels, radio and Tv stations, event halls, transport terminals, to mention, but a few, and then distribute same to the IP owners in form of royalties, that is to say, COSON already has so many copyright holders subscribed to it for the collection of royalties on its behalf.
The NCC, the statutory regulatory authority on the other hand had on the 30th day of April, 2018, pursuant to relevant provisions of the copyright Act and the Copyright (Collective Management Organisation) Regulation, 2007, suspended the license it granted to COSON to operate as a collecting society following the refusal of the management of COSON to comply with directives of the commission issued after an investigation into the lingering dispute in the governing board of COSON which has led to conflicting and counter claims by two groups claiming legitimacy to the governing board of the society and Consequently, the NCC has now recognized the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) as its collective Management Organisation.
The Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), is currently at the Federal High Court to seek redress and ask for damages amounting to eight billion Naira from the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) for what they refer to as “the undemocratic, unlawful and unconstitutional ‘suspension’ of the approval and operating license of the Plaintiff” and another two billion Naira “for the significant loss of Reputation and Goodwill suffered by the Plaintiff and arising from the massive publicity sustained by the NCC against COSON following directive that the bank accounts of the Plaintiff be frozen.”
In its 63 paragraph Statement of Claim in suit No FHC/L/CS/425/2020 filed, COSON pleads that It is a fact that the Copyright Act in Section 39 (2) gives the Defendant the power to approve collecting societies but nowhere under the law is the NCC given the power to suspend, revoke or in any way restrict the approval given to a collecting society or embark on an audit of a collecting society or direct the freeze/restriction of the bank accounts of a collecting society without an order of court.
COSON has therefore asked the Federal high Court to declare that the provisions in the Copyright (Collective Management Organizations) Regulations 2007, made by the NCC, by which the NCC has assumed the power to unilaterally suspend or revoke the licence of an approved Collecting Society or to require an approved collecting society to apply to the NCC to renew its license as undemocratic, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.
The Nigerian Copyright holders and the entertainment industry in general has lost billions of dollars in royalties, revenues and opportunities as a result of unending crisis and controversies, clumsiness and leadership predicament.
And With the outbreak of Covid 19 globally, data has shown that music consumption, especially music videos has experienced a huge jump; there would have been no better time for Copyright owners to get the most revenues from their intellectual and creative work than now.
It is my considered view, that the business of music and music licensing in Nigeria has been nothing short of sluggish and clumsy, and with the unending crisis in the industry, the music licensing and the music business in Nigeria might not experience the expected bullishness in a long time, as it is said that when two elephants are engaged in a brawl, it is the ground that takes the hit.
The copyright holder will continue to get the shorter end of the stick, if there is no deliberate effort by stakeholders to resolve all lingering crisis and take the stage as not just the biggest music makers in Africa, but also the richest copy right holders in the world, taking advantage of our increasingly growing population and the music and entertainment enthusiasm among our young population.
Ehis Osagiede is an Entertainment & Music Lawyer
Written by Ehis Osagiede