Tuesday, 16 September 2014

COSON: Nigeria’s Private Copying Levy Scheme "gathering dust"

You don't need to tell Afro Leo that dust is a ubiquitous part of life! Back in 2012, Afro-IP enthusiastically covered the news about Nigeria’s decision to introduce a private copying (or copyright) levy scheme – a post which generated readers’ comments e.g. here and elsewhere. Today, this Leo can update you that the scheme hasn't yet cleared the final hurdle to become operational. 

According to COSON’s Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji, the documents for the scheme can be found in a cabinet at the offices of the Federal Ministry of Finance (“FMF”) waiting for approval. [The ever-sympathetic Afro Leo says: at times, on matters of public interest, one might have no other viable option than to go public in order to get one’s voice heard or to influence another

Here are excerpts from COSON’s news article which reported what Chief Okoroji said at their flagship event, ‘No Music Day’, on 1 September 2014:

FMF might need this:
Quality ostrich feather duster
just £9.99 (Afro Leo brand) here,
much cheaper elsewhere!
 “…the Nigerian music industry is aware that the order to activate the Private Copy Levy has since been made by the Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice, Mr. Muhammed Bello Adoke and published in the Federal Gazette. The Nigerian Copyright Commission has held several public consultations on the levy and the stakeholders have since looked forward to the commencement of the scheme. [Afro Leo is assuming that FMF folks were invited. In any case, please don't lose faith!]

Unfortunately, for some inexplicable reason, the documents seeking the approval of the Finance Minister to activate the scheme remain trapped in some files in the office of the Director of Fiscal Policy in the Federal Ministry of Finance while the industry meant to benefit from it is suffocating.” [Basically, COSON is laying responsibility for the birth or death of the levy scheme at the Minister’s door]

 “…if the Honourable Minister has any questions on the scheme, we are ready to provide the answers. We believe that within a few minutes, this scheme which will provide some succour not just for the music industry but also for the movie and literary industries should be given an opportunity to make progress.”[Hopefully, the Minister can find some time, in her packed diary, to review and put forward questions]

Digressing for a moment. Last July, Afro-IP reported that the UK won’t be introducing a private copying levy as part of its copyright reforms. Essentially, the UK Government’s view was that levies “…are inefficient, bureaucratic and unfair, and disadvantage people who pay for content.” [Afro Leo believes that there is nothing wrong with having a private copying levy scheme, provided that it is transparent, fair and balanced to all concerned] As mentioned in the 2012 post, this Leo is still pondering how Nigeria came up with its levy scheme: was it based on an IP policy or did it just emerge like that? No need to guess because Caroline’s A-Z series will soon tell us if Nigeria has an IP policy (draft or otherwise). [Afro-Leo, a big fan of evidence-based policies with built-in review plan, mentions that there is a private use exception in Nigeria’s copyright law]

COSON’s news article also mooted the idea of government funding for Nigeria’s music industry - as seen in the movie industry through initiatives such as Project ACT-Nollywood. (On which see previous Afro-IP musings on Nollywood here, here, here, here and here) You see: the Nigerian Government has inadvertently opened the floodgates! Well, that's a subject for another post. 

Circling back to our main story, this Leo suspects that the reason for the current predicament might be because the FMF and Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) weren't on the same page from the start, or that lines of communication have broken down along the way. However, one would be forgiven to think (or to have expected) that folks at the FMF were aware and satisfied with the details of the levy scheme to the extent that it would only become a matter of rubber-stamping the Copyright (Levy of Materials) Order 2012. All suppositions!

Oh well, let's hope that the nice folks at the FMF can now decide to favourably make use of the duster (unashamedly plugged above for Afro Leo) so that the levy scheme can come to fruition to (again, hopefully) do what it's known for: compensating rightholders.
Further reading
WIPO's survey of private copying schemes around the world is here
Court of Justice of the European Union’s view on private copying levy is here
An empirical study of private copying levies across Europe is here
A case for and against private copying levy in Australia is here and here
General discussion on compensating rightholders for the private use exception is here
Latest update on France's private copying levy scheme is here

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