Legal Drama

Wahala Dey: MCSN to Sue Over COSON’s Alleged Theft of Member Names

Happy New Week AML people. Let’s hit the ground running, shall we? Kenny Ogungbe of Kennis Music is a board member of the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) . Obi Asika of Storm 360 is a board member of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) . These two organizations include many AML artists, executives and other industry persons as members. Further, they claim to represent the interests of artists. So, AML artists, this case should be bookmarked and be of great interest to you as it will significantly affect your career i.e. your money.

These organizations, among others, are fighting for your work that you create. Which means if they are that passionate about their right to help you collect royalties for your work, among other things, you ought to be even more passionate and interested in knowing exactly who these people are. Bottom line, ask a lot of questions and get to know these people.

For MCSN which has existed since 1984, one of your key questions has to be what significant strides, if any, has the organization made in protecting and preserving the intellectual property rights of artists like yourselves?

For COSON, certainly ask the same question. Since COSON is also about allegedly following the rule of law, you should want to know whether they are an organization that believes the end justifies the means, given MCSN’s alleged allegations. If the rule of law is to be upheld, then all must come to the table with clean hands, not so?

Ask a lot of questions because these organizations are fighting over YOUR IP rights. What are their credentials as individual organizations? What makes them qualified to want to protect your interests, among other important questions?

What is at issue in the MCSN v. COSON via way of lawsuit against NCC? 

The big picture is payment for the use of your music on the radio, airplane, restaurants etc. You should get paid when radios play your songs not the other way around.

  • You are a very busy artist and cannot possibly track everyone playing your music. So, which organization should have the right  to do that for you?
  • How many CMOs should do this?
  • If you register with this CMOs, which is when their responsibilities are triggered, how do they intend to track your performance royalties for: television, radio, live and internet performances (truspot, gidilounge, ghanamusic.com, I wantairplay.com etc.)?
  • What specific equipment do they have to track and calculate your monies?
  • Do they have competent staff to handle these responsibilities, afterall, they will be getting a cut from you for the services they render.

The MCSN v. COSON fight:

  1. COSON wants to be that sole organization better known as a Collective Management Organization (CMO) that does the above activities for you in terms of collecting performance royalties.
  2. MSCN wants to also be that organization.
  3. COSON successfully became the sole CMO to do this.
  4. MCSN took the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to Federal Court saying it should not have given COSON an exclusive right and doing so is unconstitutional.
  5. The Federal Court agreed and ruled such exclusive issuance was indeed unconstitutional pursuant to Nigeria’s Copyright Act. It also awarded 40Million Naira to MCSN.

MCSN now says NCC  should also not have granted COSON a license because the documents by COSON to obtain the license, in the first place, was allegedly falsified. MCSN also argues that COSON lacked the expertise, the equipment and they also allegedly stole the names of members of MCSN which they presented to NCC so they could obtain approval as a CMO.

THE LEGAL DRAMA BEGINS IN 2010:

” . .  . A statement issued by Mayo Ayilaran, MCSN’s CEO reads thus: ‘The Honourable Minister after acknowledging the fact that most of the issues as revealed at the meeting were not known to him, otherwise he would not have endorsed the approval given to COSON as recommended by the Director General of the NCC, directed that the period of ‘conditional’ or ‘provisional’ approval be reduced to 90 days within which both MCSN and COSON should find ways of ‘working together.

‘Before the meeting with the minister, no one, including the minister was informed that the approval given to COSON was provisional/conditional and limited to a period of term, particularly 18 months.

The public was made to believe that the approval was absolute and without term limit. The revelation which occurred at the meeting made the Honourable Minister to first reduce the term to 12 months and finally to 90 days with the clear proviso that parties would work together and come to that arrangement within 90 days otherwise the approval would be reviewed, particularly if the interests of MCSN and its assignors and members were found not to be adequately protected.’

In a related development, MCSN has called on the Nigerian Copyright Commission to revoke the licence granted COSON to operate as a collecting society. According to MCSN, it is hinging this on COSON’s recent ceding of its licence to another organization.

COSON recently signed an agreement with Messrs Olusola Adekanola & Co. granting the firm of Chartered Accountants royalty collection rights and duties. The action, MCSN asserts, is enough proof that ‘COSON does not possess the requisite expertise, experience, structures, personnel and resources to be approved as a collecting society/CMO’, adding: ‘COSON cannot legally transfer or assign the proprietary rights which have been legally and constitutionally granted to copyright owners, particularly under sections 10, 11 and 15 of the Copyright Act 2004 to another body without the consent of the copyright owner. . .” – The Nigerian Voice

FAST-FORWARD TO 2012 AND NOW MCSN IS READY TO SUE

“THE Musical Copyright Society Nigeria (MCSN), through its Counsel, Mr. Kemi Pinheiro, (SAN), has called on the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to recall, cancel and revoke the approval given to the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) to operate as a collecting society with immediate effect following the discovery of false claims and misrepresentation in the processes of the approval of COSON as a collecting society.

In a letter dated April 18, 2012, Pinheiro disclosed that in the membership list submitted to the NCC by COSON to support its application for approval as a collecting society, which is a necessary condition, more than 80% of the genuine names are actually members of the MCSN or its affiliates.

MCSN also alleged that more than 50 per cent of the names in the membership list of COSON is fake or just repetition of names aimed at making the membership profile of COSON appear impressive. MCSN therefore wants the copyright commission to revoke the approval given within 90 days for clear misrepresentation with clear intention to mislead the NCC and the general public or it will sue the NCC to compel compliance.

The letter, which was addressed to the Director General of NCC, also disclosed that COSON had also made a false claim of having the expertise and machinery to run a collecting society only to turn around to lease out the approval granted it by the NCC to an accounting firm which has no knowledge, experience or expertise in collective management.

According to the petition, MCSN alleged that the approval for COSON to operate as a collecting society was corruptly granted with a view to displacing and supplanting MCSN, which has been operating since July 20, 1984.

“One of the bases under the relevant provisions for the grant of such approval is the claim of representation of copyright interests which has now been discovered that COSON does not have.

The letter further claims that “some of these assignors and members of our client who became aware that their names had been included in COSON’s list have formally written to COSON protesting their inclusion in the list of an organisation with which they have no relationship whatsoever.

Copies of the protest letters are attached herewith for your information and records”. . .” – The Sunday Tribune

Have a good week ahead. This week will be quite busy for me.

Cheers,
Uduak

Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law website, livestream and podcast show empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through its brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

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ABOUT THE FOUNDER

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at https://msuduak.com.

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