2013 was a watershed year for the music industry in Nigeria as we finally began a much needed and much postponed open conversation with the Nigerian broadcasting industry. Fierce as the engagement may have seemed, I believe that it was absolutely necessary and a lot of lessons have been learnt as a result. Both the music and broadcasting industries in Nigeria will be better for it over the long run.
Even during the end of year festivities, the conversations continued on several fronts. With the historic engagement of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and several well-meaning Nigerian institutions and individuals, I am happy to announce that we are now in a position to bring to an end the dispute between COSON on the one hand and Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON) and independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN) on the other.
Any moment from now, I expect the NBC to announce a framework which if fully implemented will bring to an end the era of the ban of the broadcast of the music of Nigeria’s best artistes on our nation’s airwaves. The implementation of the framework should also make it unnecessary for COSON to continue to deploy multiple-litigation to compel broadcasting stations to pay appropriate copyright royalties for the musical works and sound recordings they broadcast. There is no question that if we follow through with the process, we would have unchained the music industry in Nigeria and set it on a part of growth hitherto unknown. The broadcast industry should also benefit because it will operate in an atmosphere of stability and certainty.
COSON is ready to work conscientiously with our partners in the broadcasting industry and the regulatory agencies to ensure that the framework is successfully implemented and that the Nigerian nation benefits from this episode.
In the same vain, it has become necessary to repeat our call on the National and State Assemblies and all the governments of the federation to ensure that clear provisions are made in the budgets of all Federal and State government owned broadcast stations for the payment of copyright royalties.
It is very well known that most of these stations were set up for political reasons. They have very little chance of generating proper revenue. Meanwhile, they sustain their operations by freely using the intellectual property of innocent citizens who have invested in creativity with hard earned money. The Nigerian music industry cannot and should not be expected to subsidize broadcasting in Nigeria. The capital requirements of the stations are budgeted, the salaries of the staff are budgeted but the royalties to those who create and invest in the music which sustains the stations are not budgeted. This cannot continue.
In 2013, COSON announced the signing of a landmark reciprocal representation agreement with the United Kingdom based PRS for Music among many others. The significance of the COSON agreements with PRS and other CMOs around the world is that the rest of the world now has huge interest in music licensing in Nigeria. Our country must therefore behave responsibly. We can no longer act as we like or pretend that it does not matter. Economic and diplomatic sanctions await us if we behave like we have a right to use other people’s intellectual property for free. In line with our responsibilities, COSON has begun the remittance of royalties to foreign CMOs for royalties collected with respect to their repertoire in Nigeria. We expect that in like manner, royalties collected for the use of Nigerian music by our partner CMOs will be remitted to COSON for the benefit of the individual right owners.
As the digital age evolves more and more, it is clear that the shape of the music industry is becoming remarkably different. Already the method of music distribution is changing rapidly with the CD gradually disappearing and cell phones, i pads, i pods, Mp3s, Mp4s, memory chips, memory sticks and similar devices replacing the CD. The internet has also become a major source of music. These developments pose tremendous challenges to the industry as the business models change.
In recognition of the above, COSON in 2013 organized the first Nigerian Digital Music Licensing Summit. We recognize the urgency in practitioners in Nigeria to establish the rules of engagement in this new environment. The working committee set up by the summit has been meeting since August 2013 to set up rules that will ensure that the industry thrives in an environment in which all stakeholders benefit from the growth. Those rules as well as a training scheme for judges dealing with copyright matters and practitioners will soon be made public.
In recognition of the changing nature of access to music, efforts are at advanced stages to activate Section 40 of the Copyright Act which provides for a levy to be imposed on materials used or capable of being used to infringe copyright and for such levy to be distributed to stakeholders through approved collective management organizations. We are aware that the requisite order has been made by the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice.
Towards the end of 2013, the Nigerian Copyright Commission held an important workshop in Lagos on the scheme which ought to provide badly needed income to practitioners in our industry. This year, COSON intends to work relentlessly with the key organs of government to ensure that the scheme takes off properly.
As we begin the year 2014, we must rededicate ourselves to the full engagement of the Nigerian people, institutions and the various governments on the potential contributions of the Nigerian music industry to the socio-economic development of the Nigerian nation. We must bring to national attention the necessity to fully deploy the substantial international comparative advantage which our nation possesses in this area so as to provide hundreds of thousands of jobs to the teeming masses of Nigerian youth who today parade the streets of our country with little hope.
Apart from the tremendous social impact which popular music can make, we believe that the potential contributions of our industry to the growth of the Nigerian economy must be tapped. We believe that if we do the right things, the music industry should be one of the largest employers of labour in the country giving an opportunity to many talented Nigerians to achieve their dreams.
I must therefore commend practitioners in the industry for the substantial unity of purpose displayed in the recent steps taken by us to liberate the industry and create new and sustainable streams of income for practitioners. In the New Year, COSON will remain fully engaged as an important driver of this process.
As the initiatives mentioned here begin to take shape in the year 2014 and the latent energy of stakeholders in our industry are unleashed and the world finds the confidence to commit the lurking international investments, there is no doubt that 2014 will be a year of unprecedented boom to Nigerian musicians and the Nigerian music industry.
Let the music pay!
CHIEF TONY OKOROJI
Lagos, January 7, 2014
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