Chief Tony Okoroji
Earlier this week, precisely tuesday 17th may, 2016; hundreds of gaily dressed members of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s sole approved Collective Management Organization for musical works and sound recordiing stormed the Oramiyan Hall of Lagos Airport Hotel for the 6th Annual General Meeting of the society.
Among the many top music industry stakeholders present were Afrojuju maestro, Sir Shina Peters, ace music producer, Laolu Akins the rainmaker and Nigeria reggae legend, Majek Fashek, Music Label top guns, Obi Asika and Audu Maikori, Eko ogba gbere crooner, Pa Chris Ajilo and renowned guitarist, Feladey and amiable singer, Stella Delight among several others. The Director-General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) was also represented by Mr. Obi Ezeilo, Zonal Manager, Lagos.
Reading his address which received intermittent applause, COSON Chairman Chief Tony Okoroji pledged his society’s support of the Federal Government in the effort to get the entertainment industry to contribute to reviving the nation’s ailing economy. He however challenged the government to ensure that its actions match its words.
According to Chief Okoroji, “For us to play our role effectively, the government cannot pretend to understand our problems because it does not. The government must engage us closely, listen to our issues and then take action instead of just talking. In other words, the actions of the government must match its words.
“For instance, the government cannot say that it wants the entertainment industry to grow the economy and yet looks the other way while government agencies engage in horrendous copyright infringement.
“Since the present government took over, we have repeatedly called for the activation of the private copy levy scheme provided for under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We have received no reaction whatsoever from a government that says that it is interested in growing the entertainment industry”.
Concluding, Okoroji said, “Around the continent, pirated Nigerian music dominates the airwaves and music shops. We believe that a government which wants to grow our entertainment industry must take interest and engage meaningfully with these nations at the diplomatic and international trade levels and ensure that these national assets are not frittered away”
Chief Okoroji also announced the development of a very sophisticated computer system that can fully capture the documentation, distribution and financial transactions at COSON. According to Okoroji, “Our new system called the COSONET will enable each member of the society access the records of his works with the society from the comfort of his bedroom and permit him or her to update his works when necessary from wherever he or she might be. The COSONET will also enable each member to monitor royalties accruing to him or her and generate a report of the royalties and their sources. It should also make it possible for instant royalty distribution, whether general or specific, removing the frustrating wait that some of us go through to receive our royalties”. He said that with the COSONET which is presently being test run, in operation, COSON would have achieved 100% transparency and accountability.
Reporting on the massive cases filed recently by COSON against the Federal government owned FRCN and telecommunications giant MTN, Chief Okoroji promised that more such high profile cases will be filed soon.
According to the Chairman, COSON does not go to court frivolously. In his words, “In each case that we have taken a user to court, we must have satisfied ourselves, that all none-adversarial methods of resolving the problem had been exhausted. The cases send a loud and clear message to everyone that the era of free music in Nigeria is gone”. Recently a copyright ruling went in favour of two top bongo artistes in Tanzania. The Tanzania court awarded Tsh2.18 billion (Ksh94 million) in special damages in a landmark ruling that could set a precedent in the application of the copyright law in East Africa.
AY and MWANAFA
The huge award was won by Bongo Flava artistes Ambwene Yessaya “AY” and Hamisi Mwinjuma “MwanaFA” who had sued mobile phone company MIC Tanzania (Tigo) for unauthorised use of their music as caller tunes. A caller tune is a tone in music form that is heard by a person making a call as they wait for the person being called to answer the phone. Ilala senior resident magistrate Juma Hassan granted the award on April 11, 2016 after a four-year court battle between the parties. The award also includes a separate Tsh25 million (Ksh1 million) in general damages. News of the fine against Tigo only came to light this week, on Tuesday, when the firm went to the High Court to block the execution of the award pending its appeal. History would be made in the copyright field should the High Court uphold the judgement by the Ilala District Court. MwanaFA said it was time those who had in the past taken basic copyright laws for granted realised that things have changed.
“This is a key moment in copyright in Tanzania. It is something that has been happening for quite a long time now, mainly because of lack of knowledge and maybe because of the costs associated with such cases,” he told Tanzania’s The Citizen. He added: “Nobody is supposed to use your work without your permission or agreement and, if at all he has benefited, then he is supposed to share with you according to the price tag you have set for your work.” As for AY, he says the ruling will go a long way in helping artistes get the respect they deserve and let artistes know that they should fight for their rights.
Chief Okoroji also Identified the factors which have resulted in the rapid growth of COSON and its ability to collect and distribute several hundreds of millions of Naira in only six years of operation as CONSISTENCY, TRANSPARENCY and STABILITY.
At the elections that took place during the AGM, four members of the Board: Mr. Joel Ajayi, Mr. Obi Asika, Mr. Efe Omorogbe and Alhaji Sikiru Agboola were returned to the Board.
Source: COSON Nigeria
Compiled and Edited by: Jimmy Adesanya