Thursday, 28 June 2012

COSON working hard to establish its status in Nigeria

Chief Tony Okoroji
Source: COSON
Afro-IP has kept an eye on the highs and lows of collective rights management in Nigeria. Yesterday, this Leo was informed by COSON, an approved collecting society in Nigeria, that it has signed a multimillion naira royalty agreement with Multichoice (Nigeria) – the latter yet to announce or confirm the deal. The agreement grants Multichoice the licence to broadcast musical works across its various platforms. Here are some interesting comments by COSON’s Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji taken from the press release:

"You will recall that two years ago when COSON was approved by the Nigerian Copyright Commission, we made a solemn pledge to do whatever it takes to defend the rights of those who create or invest in music in Nigeria. [COSON asserting its legitimacy as the nation’s approved collecting society]

We swore before you to end the many years of the locust [Locust? When did this happen? asks chuckling Leo] We said that whatever it takes, we will make collective management of copyright work in Nigeria… for two years COSON has worked round the clock and been everywhere at the same time. I have been asked whether COSON ever sleeps and I said no [Leo urges COSON to get some rest so that it can be alert enough to face licence fee dodgers]. COSON can't afford to sleep until the abuse of the copyright in music and sound recordings are ended in Nigeria. Even then, COSON will not sleep" [Right, this is officially insomnia].

"I want to thank the Multichoice Staff and Management, especially the Managing Director, Mr. John Ugbe. I can't recall how many times John and Gozie Onumonu were at the COSON office in Ikeja, the countless hours of negotiations and the many road blocks we worked together to remove to make this possible. They have shown Multichoice to be a socially responsible organization and I commend them for their never-say-die spirit" [This is quite impressive! Basically, respecting the intellectual property rights (IPRs) of others and making sure that they make a reasonable living from their toil and sweat are all within corporate social responsibility – I hope to refer some NGOs to this one].

"All public and commercial users of music do not have to wait for a law suit before they contact COSON and obtain their licence to use music in public" [We like this. Please keep up with the sensitisation programmes in collaboration with stakeholders].

"I am informed that someone has misled owners of hotels, restaurants and similar public establishments that the payment of their DSTV subscription authorizes them to freely play music to their customers and to the general public. There is no better place to state publicly that the payment of subscription to receive the first class signals from DSTV is not the same as a copyright licence to communicate music and sound recordings to the general public. Hotels, restaurants and similar establishments which have not done so should get in touch with COSON without delay” [Leo has a feeling that this is probably not a case of wrong advice, rather, one a lack of awareness on the part of most business owners that communicating such works to the public without a licence is unlawful. Sounds familiar to collecting societies in other jurisdictions? Again, sensitisation is imperative]

Also adding his voice was the Managing Director of MultiChoice, Mr. John Ugbe, who said,"……I am very proud to state that as MultiChoice, we value intellectual property and we have always been ensuring that artistes get paid for their content, through our sister company we have invested over 200M USD buying Nigerian content and with this new agreement with music, we can only grow from here. [Good to hear African companies publicly declaring their respect for IP and willing to pay money for it]

We believe that a labourer deserves his/her wages and in our effort to renew vibrant talent emerging from Nigeria and the African continent, there is a need for this kind of partnership. We encourage other organizations to come onboard and work with structured organizations here" [Like COSON’s Chairman, this reiterates the common view that creators of IP should benefit from their creation]

One can at least deduce from this development that COSON is pulling out all the stops to ensure that copyright owners can trust them to act in their best interests and consequentially, in the interest of millions who enjoy the works of creative and talented people. This is surely another boost to the entertainment industry and copyright in Nigeria.

Other related news:
Last year, a report claimed that Multichoice sought relief from the Court against MCSN’s threat of lawsuit; in the same year, COSON signed a partnership agreement with Google. Last but not least, if you thought you have heard the last of the wrangling between MCSN and COSON, think again, see here 

For different species of locust see here 
For FAQs on locust see here 


goldenrail said...

Maybe I'm raining on the parade, but I'm curious, has COSON secured the rights to the music it purports to be licensing? When the Nigerian Copyright Commission granted COSON status to operate as the only official music collecting society in Nigeria, most artists had assigned their rights to the old PRS successor (which was also a member of CISAC complete with reciprocal agreements around the world). Has that changed?

Anonymous said...

Goldenrail, good point. Though I would be more concerned about any entity acting as if it had the authority in the first instance to deal with artists as a collecting society. The situation as usual (and unfortunately) is still confusing :)