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How copyright battles hold back our entertainment industry and economy


How copyright battles hold back our entertainment industry and economy

Since the enactment of the 1970 Copyright Act, the Music Collective Society of Nigeria (MCSN) replaced the United Kingdom’s Performing Rights Society as the defacto and sole managers of copyrights in the Nigerian music industry. This spanned for at least two decades before the amendment of the Copyright Act in 1992 mandating the rights societies to obtain licenses from the Nigerian Copyrights Commission. This opened up the scene to other players and it was during this period, that the Performing and Mechanical Rights Society (PMRS) came onto the scene.

However, most of these players were ineffective at delivering their mandates, leading to NCC’s review of operating licenses and subsequent approval of a single collective management organisation (CMO) – the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) in 2010. 

As a result, COSON (formerly PMRS) became the sole legal rights manager for Nigerian entertainment professionals including composers, performers, publishers and owners of music and sound recordings. This lasted for about eight years until it lost the sole authority in an enduring legal challenge brought against it by the MCSN.  Likewise, Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami in 2017 directed the NCC to reinstate MCSN as a legal collecting society.

COSON’s eight years of monopoly over rights management in Nigeria has been largely controversial. At the core of its various controversies are allegations of financial impropriety, disregard for corporate governance and lack of operational transparency. A series of leadership tussles and plots led to thesuspension of the operational license of COSON by the NCC in April 2018, throwing the already embattled organisation into further turmoil.

Why it matters:

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) reports that copyright-based industries can be key economic contributors in both developed and developing economies. According to WIPO, the total GDP contribution of copyright-based industries vary from 2.81% in Bulgaria ($56.83billion GDP, 2017)  to 11.70% in the Philippines ($313.6billion GDP, 2017).  Similarly, the indicator ratio of persons employed in the copyright-based sector to the total number of employees in the economy varies from 3.03% in Jamaica to 11.17% in Latvia.

The South African Music Rights Organization (SAMRO) according to its 2018 integrated report had$22.6 million dollars available for distribution, while Nigeria’s COSON distributed just about $335,000 in the same period. This is less than the amount SAMRO paid in taxes to the South African government. 

Several artistes are yet to receive these payouts from COSON, while others who have managed to collect their royalties complain about the organisation’s opacity with regards to their earnings. COSON’s lack of corporate governance has undermined Nigeria’s entertainment industry for close to a decade. This is why the re-entry of competing MSCN as legal collectors is considered to be good omen for the industry, however, nothing will change if regulators do not demand more compliance from the CMOs. 

Bad corporate governance on the part of these CMOs, representing thousands of Nigerian creatives can cast doubts over their reliability, integrity, and transparency—key factors with major implications on both their financial health and ability to attract potential value partnerships that would enhance the delivery of their mandates. Furthermore, the collecting societies would need to collaborate and consolidate on building infrastructure for the benefit of all.

In 2016, Nigeria’s creative industry accounted for 2.3% of the nation’s GDP ($404.7billion), with a forecast of a 13.4% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for the music sub-industry worth an estimated $73 million. This is why the CMOs have a significant role to play in ensuring that Nigeria’s entertainment industry players are getting the right remuneration for the exploitation of their intellectual property. 

If COSON and any other CMO at that is to reach its fullest potential, then it must first clean up its own house and affairs. 

READ: Does the copyright law protect your blogs, tweets and posts?

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Adeite Bakare is a professional guitarist and music industry analyst.

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