AVRS Moves To Commence Licensing And Distribution Of Royalties.

Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Emeka Mba.
Key industry players and top stakeholders of the audiovisual sector of the Nigerian entertainment industry have charged the leadership of the Audiovisual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS) to ensure that it provide efficient and cost effective means of not only representing the right owners but also ensuring that right users begin to pay for rights for the benefit of practitioners of the industry.  The practitioners have the charge at the maiden stakeholders-users forum organized by the AVRS and held at Eko Hotel and Suites last week.  At the well attended event that attracted big names in the motion picture industry, industry regulators like the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), officials of banks and other financial institutions, lawyers and captains of industry, the panelist and guest who took turns to speak emphasized the need for the AVRS to set the machinery for rights collection and administration in motion especially against the backdrop of the massive transformation and continuous expansion that the audiovisual landscape has witnessed in the last two decades.  They also stressed the need for the timely interrogation of what the future holds for practitioners especially with the emerging models that have come to redefine the roles of players and the value chain in the commercialization and exploitation of creative content.

In his keynote speech at the event that was hosted by the actor Richard Mofe Damijo, Director General of the NCC John Asein, called on the AVRS to evolve strategies to manage the impact of the growth in digital technologies that has ushered in a new wave of services, which has seen content consumption rise exponentially. While calling on content users to cooperate with AVRS in ensuring that licensing is conducted in the most business-friendly manner, the NCC DG canvassed a situation where the AVRS must be seen to discharge its function in a manner that justifies its existence as a collective management organization. In his words ‘’I encourage users present here to cooperate with the AVRS in ensuring that licensing is conducted in the most business-friendly manner.  As long as it is acknowledged that creative contents are vital inputs to the operations of certain businesses, licensing of such content is no longer debatable, but rather a case of ascertaining what the appropriate licensing rates and tariffs should be’’. Asein expressed NCC’s willingness to assist parties who may have difficulties in coming to an amicable conclusion of such licensing deals through alterative dispute resolution. 

Mr. Mahmood Ali-Balogun.
Also, Chairman of the forum and former DG of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Emeka Mba, canvassed the need to deconstruct and reconstruct the Nollwood value chain in a way as to maximally secure any real measure of value to the industry practitioners. Mba was unequivocal in his submission that the industry guild and associations have largely failed to design an engagement strategy with agreed deliverables that the NCC and other agencies can be measured by. He therefore charged AVRS to rise to the occasion and act in the overall industry interest. As Mba said ‘’the AVRS should be the last man standing; the industry insurance vehicle to ensure that a measurable portion of the value created by Nollywood comes back to Nollywood for the benefit of industry practitioners’’.

But to effectively play the role of the last man standing, AVRS according to Mba must conduct an audit of what is collectible based on the applicability of the law establishing it and this must be broken down sector by sector.

Earlier in his welcome address, Chairman of the AVRS Mahmood Ali-Balogun noted that while the AVRS may have recorded some progress in the areas of enlightenment, membership data analysis, capacity building for staff and management and strategic partnership building processes, the AVRS as the Chairman observed is still many steps behind, given that the CMO was licensed near five years ago and till date, the CMO is still far off licensing and distribution of royalties, which as he stressed ‘are the two fundamental purposes for which AVRS was established and approved as a CMO’.  

Mr. Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Emeka Mba & Nkechi Ali-Balogun.

While commending the understanding and spirit of cooperation by users of audiovisual content who have shown commitment to voluntary compliance with copyright regulations by obtaining AVRS license, Ali-Balogun urged users who are still trying to evade payment for AVRS license to obtain the license as the Nigerian Copyright Act is very clear on the obligation and liabilities of right users. In his words ‘’’’in the past few years there has been landmark judicial pronouncements that have become benchmarks for judgment on matters of right usage. We hope that we will not be constrained to engage at that level which is why the only option open to a user of audiovisual content in which copyright subsist, is to comply with extant laws and regulations’.

Other speakers at the event include CEO of Dragon Africa and Chairman Social Media Week Nigeria, Obi Asika, the CEO of ACC Broadcast Multimedia Limited, Dr. Don Pedro Obaseki, Sandra Oyewole, partner at Olajide Oyewole LLP and Chijioke Uwaegbute of Pricewaterhouse and Cooper. They were unequivocal in their submissions that AVRS must rise to the occasion especially if the overall intention is to empower the practitioners of the industry in the light of the rise in content consumption.

Licensed by the NCC in 2014, in pursuant to section 39 of the Nigerian Copyright Act and the CMO regulations 2007, the AVRS is the only company that is authorized to license public and commercial use of cinematograph and video works in Nigeria.

Some other notable personalities and stakeholders  attended the forum and they are, rep of MultiChoice Nigeria Ltd, Mr. Chris Aigbe of Fidelity Bank and President of ACAMB (Association of Corporate Affairs Managers of Banks), Chief Samuel Alabi of Eko Hotel & Suites and President of HOMAL, key artistes - Tina Mba, Fred Amata, Femi Odugbemi, Sola Sobowale, Shaffy Bello, Emeka Rollas, Zeb Ejiro, Ibinabo Fiberesima, Ralph Nwadike and other guests - Mena Ajakpovi and Obafemi Agaba, Abosede Adegboye (PwC), Tony Okoroji, Nkechi Ali-Balogun, etc.