The BON v. COSON dispute continues. See statement sent to me below.
BON’S ANNOUNCEMENT NOT TO — USE NIGERIAN MUSIC UNDER COSON’S CONTROL IS REAL AND QUITE POSSIBLE
By Solomon Arueya; Chairman/Chief Executive of Westside Music Inc.
The recent decision of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) on the issue of abuse of monopoly position of the approved sole collecting society for the Nigerian music industry is an issue that should be carefully digested and appreciated by every Nigerian artiste and whoever has any interest in the industry.
I have read and heard many commentaries on both side of the divide, most of which were emotional and play on the psyche of our artistes who are usually at the receiving ends of such actions as represented by COSON and decision as made by BON not to play Nigerian music under COSON’s control.
As an industry player and a business man, I need no expert to educate me on the benefits or otherwise of a monopolistic situation as we have in COSON, which BON is resisting. Likewise do I need no one to fool me that COSON’s claim to control the entire music used in Nigeria is total. I know as a fact that very many musicians whose music are popular and are daily used by members of BON are members of the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN), vis-à-vis the society’s control of a very large repertoire of foreign music both which can sustain BON’s members’ broadcast operations. Furthermore, I know of very many musicians who are neither members of COSON nor MCSN and yet have huge repertoire of music being broadcast daily by members of BON.
What we have presently in our hands is the dictum that what goes round comes round. I recall a disclosure made recently at a forum that way back in 1988, the same BON headed then by the late Alhaji Dahiru Modibo, the then Director General of the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), was at an advanced stage of negotiations with the MCSN for the payment of royalties, which Chief Tony Okoroji, as the then President of PMAN thwarted and went ahead to cause people like Chief Ebenezer Obey, Sir Victor Uwaifo, the late Sony Okosuns among others, to write disclaimers of belonging to MCSN or any society for that matter, in order to avoid their music being blacklisted by the broadcasters. Some of these same people who are now in the leadership of COSON and are now being visited with the same scenario which they were tricked to avoid in 1988!
The central message of BON’s decision is that the monopoly position being enjoyed by COSON is being abused and government should do something about it, otherwise they will look elsewhere for their music. The question any discerning mind should therefore ask is, why should there be a monopoly in an environment in which the government has liberalised every activity ranging from broadcasting to communication, banking to airline and even petroleum to electricity? For those defending COSON’s monopoly, the same arguments which justified monopoly in the newspaper, broadcasting and telecommunications industries during the military era are still being advanced to justify COSON’s monopoly in 2013 under civilian democracy! To the Nigerian musicians, the question they should ordinarily ask themselves is what is government’s interest in forcing COSON down their throats as the sole collecting society against the constitutional provisions guaranteeing their freedom of association? If government wanted a monopoly in that sector why not establish a government company or parastatals? Why making a monopoly out of a private company owned or formed by Chief Tony Okoroji and a few of his friends? Most importantly, if COSON fails to deliver on services, where does the average Nigerian musician turn to for quality or comparative services?
During the time of PMRS, which was also formed by Chief Tony Okoroji, their argument for coming up with that society was that MCSN was not efficient or good enough, but history has shown that PMRS during its life time was not able to do one-tenth of what MCSN did in terms of service delivery. Artistes who earlier joined PMRS on the strength of government recognition accorded PMRS, but who later “decamped” to join MCSN attest to this fact.
COSON always makes sweeping claim over control of music repertoire in Nigeria. This is far from the truth. Kennis Music, Westside Music, Stingomania Music, and a host of their artistes vis-à-vis their music are not under COSON. MCSN still claims control of a huge repertoire of music both local and foreign which is being used by BON members. There are equally large numbers of Nigerian musicians who are neither members of MCSN nor COSON. All of these make BON’s threat or decision not to play Nigerian music under COSON’s control (COSON’s music) very potent and therefore not to be wished away as empty threat. BON was very specific about music under COSON not Nigerian music in general.
There are also pending series of court cases involving the non-approval of MCSN, approval of COSON, payment and collection of royalties by COSON. Without fully resolving these cases, the issue of royalty collection will remain far from being settled, as only an ignorant person or a fool would choose to deal in a property which is under litigation.
Who is fooling who we might want to ask? The Voice of Jacob and the Hand of Esau.
They say CMO is not a business, so what “business” do they have fighting so much to control even those who are NOT in their fold. Haba!
PRS (London) agreement is a child of circumstance as same was mentioned by the NCC as the reason for not licensing MCSN (that PRS is a foreign body in MCSN and against “The National Interest”). So how come COSON says they now have PRS and drinking Champaign over it. There is more that meets the eyes and as such that agreement cannot be relied upon because if the situation changes PRS will port again.
SAMRO (South Africa). Nelson Mandela fought Against Apatite and yet SAMRO thinks that Slavery should continue in Nigeria as one would wonder the sense in their signing an agreement with COSON when the MCSN has been in the struggle to protect their Composers Rights here in Nigeria against this clear breech of the Fundamental Rights of ALL Artiste. I wonder if they remember where they are coming from. What a shame! One can only imagine how sad Mandela would be to see that some set of people cannot still stand for JUSTICE AND EQUITY.
Let it be on record that with all the royalties collected by COSON in the last three years, not a kobo payment has been received by us at Westside Music to date as royalty. I met with Chief Tony Okoroji and his General Manager, Mr Chinedu Chukwuji, at an NCC event a few weeks ago; they said unless I join COSON there is no royalty for me, even when they have collected monies on the use of my music. This is what we are getting with COSON’s monopoly in addition to other forms of blackmail.
Let us not forget too soon that PMRS was a fraud on the entire music Industry after collecting so much money without recourse to the Owners of the works on whose behalf such monies were collected and when the game was up, “another G magic” has come again now in the name of COSON. At least we now all know that COSON is not a new organization but ONLY a change of name at the CAC with Registration Number “RC: 257610. Wolf in sheep’s clothing.
It is now very clear from the above that COSON can NEVER satisfy the generality of Musicians alike in Nigeria, as it is practically impossible to force any human being to belong to it. Copyright Right is a Private Property just as a landed Property; we all have the fundamental right to choose where we want to be and who should be our care taker – certainly not COSON.
The challenge before Nigerian artistes and the government, particularly the Nigerian Copyright Commission and the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation today is to liberalise the industry; allow more societies to operate in the musical field and see if BON members will not pay for the music they use, whether COSON, MCSN or any other person’s music.
Denial of justice to one party in the whole royalty collection saga should be addressed first, and every other thing will fall into place.
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