A big hats off to the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) for showing great leadership today by suspending the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON)’s license until COSON follows the law and places the interest of artists, its constituents, as its utmost priority.
Per my previous writing which you can read here, COSON was making a mockery of artists’ rights and the NCC on the global map, because of the warring factions on its leadership board. If you all also recall my writing linked above, I said what needed to happen was a dissolution of the first Okoroji led board which included Efe Omoregbe, and a dissolution of the new board Okoroji attempted to assemble which does not include Efe Omoregbe and co., but includes Kenny Ogungbe and his sister KSB.
The interests of artists come first and while NCC is not perfect, it has made some great strides, including issuing a license for COSON to operate. COSON, therefore, cannot be about egos, nepotism (man know man), conflicts of interests, among the many issues it had that detracted from its mission. Neither Tony Okoroji nor Efe Omoregbe own COSON. COSON is about Nigeria’s creatives, not individuals with their personal agendas.
What needs to happen, as I previously suggested, is that COSON reconstitute/form a third/ new board that is impartial. Members cannot be four (4) people from one music publishing company, as in Efe Omoregbe’s situation. That is ridiculous. Instead, it should have a cross-section of industry stakeholders that have a vested interest in seeing the advancement of the interest of artists.
I believe an impartial board should include:
A member of the recording industry.
A member of the publishing industry.
A member of the music management industry.
A member of the Alaba market (Specifically the organization within Alaba involved in the negotiation and sale of music, movies and other intellectual property content with the entertainment industry. They have three diverse organizations that manage the market, one of them regulates merchants/traders involved in the sale of IP goods (music, movies etc.)).
A member of the broadcasting industry.
A member of the songwriting industry/writers association.
A member from the legal (entertainment law) industry.
And any such industry integral to the entertainment industry. Also, COSON’s board must be responsive to its local market. As a result, and given the role Alaba has played and continues to play, it is essential, in my view, to have a member present on the COSON board. There are leaders within the market committed to eradicating piracy. Loop them in. They will help spread the word and implement better practices faster than COSON on its own can. The COSON board has to be an impartial board, free of even the appearance of impropriety, and definitely no nepotism.
So, bravo, again, to NCC and its leadership team led by Director Afam Ezekude who clearly is not being influenced by either Efe Omoregbe or Tony Okoroji, in suspending COSON’s license.
If NCC was influenced it would oust Okoroji and replace him with Omoregbe as Chairman, via whatever means necessary. However, its current move means nobody wins and the interest of the artist stays center stage, where it should have been all along. Tony Okoroji doesn’t get to hug COSON as if he owns the organization. A great and effective leader should always be okay with letting go of the reins and letting those he or she has discipled step in and lead the organization forward. Similarly, the director’s decision means Efe Omoregbe doesn’t stay on COSON’s board with a clear conflict of interest, and at a minimum, the appearance of impropriety (i.e. him and three members of his publishing company sit on the board), yet point fingers at Okoroji and create such angst.
It takes a lot of guts, especially in a society like Nigeria, to do the right thing.
I’m proud that the NCC has done the right thing.
Thanks to you Mr. Ezekude and your team.
COSON, under Okoroji, has now said it will appeal. Fine. Appeal.
The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) in line with the provision of Regulation 19 (2) of the Copyright (Collective Management Organizations) Regulation 2007 has suspended the Operating License of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (Ltd/Gte) (COSON) as a Collective Management organization for Music and Sound Recordings, following the approval of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN.
The Director-General, NCC, Mr. Afam Ezekude who disclosed this in a document noted that the suspension is a follow-up to the continued failure and/or refusals of COSON to carry out the directive of the Commission issued vide its letter dated February 19, 2018.
The DG, had earlier conveyed the decision of the Commission to the General Manager of COSON, in a letter dated April 30, 2018. According to the letter, COSON is to henceforth desist from negotiating and granting Copyright Licences, collecting Royalties on behalf of Copyright owners, or otherwise performing any functions of a Collective Management Organization, except otherwise directed by the Commission.
The Commission in a separate letter dated May 3, 2018 also directed the Management of COSON to refrain from making further withdrawals or expenses from the funds of COSON, within the period of suspension, except for purposes of meeting personnel emoluments. Other expenses of COSON, outside personnel emolument may however be made upon permission from the Director-General of the Commission.
Henceforth, the General Manager of COSON has been directed to forward to the Director-General, NCC, within 7 days, details of all bank accounts operated by COSON.
The DG said, the latter directive became necessary in view of the need to safeguard funds belonging to owners of Copyright in Music and Sound Recordings, whose works are administered by COSON, and to enable the Commission undertake necessary compliance checks in line with relevant provisions of the Copyright (Collective Management Organizations) Regulations 2007.
It would be recalled that the Commission received a petition from some members of the Governing Board of COSON, requesting the Commission to intervene and investigate the events at the Extra Ordinary General Meeting of COSON held on Tuesday, December 19, 2017.After due consideration of the petition, the Commission issued directives to the Management of COSON, not to implement certain decisions irregularly taken at the extraordinary General Meeting held on December 19, 2017, which were ostensibly in breach of statutory provisions and regulations guiding the operations of COSON.
Following the issuance of the directive, the Commission received a letter dated February 23, 2018 signed by the General Manager of COSON, indicating clearly the unwillingness of Management of COSON to comply with the directive of the Commission. Other activities of Management of COSON which are glaring in the public domain have also confirmed the refusal of the Management to comply with the directive of the Commission as it is obliged to do under relevant laws and regulation guiding its operations.
The DG, NCC, Mr. Afam Ezekude, has observed that the development in its entirety does not augur well for the development of Copyright administration in Nigeria. Aside undermining the efficient administration of COSON to the utter disadvantage of authors and right owners in Music Industry, the continuing defiance of COSON Management to the directive of the Commission is a clear indication of its unwillingness to operate within the framework of the Copyright Act and Regulations guiding operations of Collective Management Organizations in Nigeria, for which there are clear consequences and sanctions.
The Commission has therefore advised Management of COSON to take necessary steps to comply with the directives of the Commission failing which further sanctions may be imposed on it in accordance with the provisions of the law.
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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia. Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
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