PMAN Takes A Stand On Copyright and Collection Of Royalties Issues In Nigeria, Says It Can No Longer Sit On The Fence While Things Go Wrong In The Industry.

Pretty Okafor.

The Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, PMAN says it has been following events in the music industry particularly as they relate to the issue of management of copyright and collection of royalties for music and sound recordings, and has also read carefully many claims by the management of COSON and statements and interviews issued by those sympathetic to COSON and its current travails with the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), which is the Federal Government agency for the regulation and supervision of copyright matters with notes taken from MCSN’s clarifications on various court judgments at the Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Nigeria.

As the umbrella body representing the teeming masses of Nigeria musicians and creators of sound recordings whose members are mostly affected by the subject matter of copyright and royalty collections, PMAN through her National President, Pretty Okafor, says she can no longer sit on the fence while all the mess that has dominated the space for too long persists to the detriment of our collective wellbeing and economic benefits.

Therefore, the association has taken a stand and in doing that, has considered all the facts, law and innuendos issued on the subject matter by all parties, but we would only be swayed by available facts and law as gleaned from the independent investigation and findings of PMAN ans established the following,

1.   COSON’s licence or approval to operate as a collective management organisation (CMO) was suspended by letter and notice published in the first quarter of 2018 and the suspension has not been lifted based on non-fulfilment of and non-compliance with certain requirements placed on COSON by Copyright Act 2004 and the Copyright (Collective Management Organisations) 2007 and as directed by the NCC. 

2.    Rather than dealing with the legal and regulatory requirements placed upon COSON, the leadership of COSON resorted into personality attacks and suing certain individual officials of the NCC to court.

3.   COSON also sued the NCC and its Director General for suspending its licence or approval as CMO, a suit which the Federal High Court dismissed in early 2020.  COSON claims that it has filed an appeal against the judgment.

4.    MCSN on the other hand has been established and operating since 1984 mainly as an owner, assignee and exclusive licensee of a huge repertoire of copyright works spanning musical works, sound recordings, dramatic works and audio-visual works before the introduction of CMO into our laws which culminated in the Copyright Act 2004.

5.    PMAN found that MCSN made its very first local and international general distributions in 1987 and has consistently built on this effort until the operations of the Society were totally encumbered in 2010 when COSON was announced as the only licensed or approved CMO in Nigeria.

6.    PMAN established the fact that MCSN has always be willing and complying with every copyright regulations and requirements starting from 1994 till 2010 and at every point, the people who formed what eventually became what is now known as COSON have been behind the very negative attitude displayed to MCSN from the regulatory authority, Nigerian Copyright Commission.  These were confirmed by various campaigns and court cases and judgments particularly in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/61/2007: PMRS vs. NCC & Ors., Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1259/2017: COSON vs. MCSN & Ors, and Suit No. FHC/L/CS/425/2020: COSON vs. NCC & Ors., to mention just a few.  COSON, as it was then and now known, lost all these cases but it claims that it has filed appeals against the judgments.

7.    MCSN made every efforts to have a peaceful and mutually beneficial engagements with the NCC but resorted to litigation when such efforts failed and as last resort.

8.    PMAN found and satisfactorily so, that all the cases between MCSN and NCC were amicably resolved on the directive of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, who further directed that NCC should grant approval to MCSN as a CMO.

9.    PMAN found that the directive to amicably end the cases between MCSN and NCC and the approval granted to MCSN to operate as a CMO angered COSON, whose erstwhile Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji, went all out to denigrate the person and the office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, also with transferred aggression to NCC’s top officials starting from Mr. Ezekude and now Mr. John Asein.  Erstwhile Director General of the NCC, Mr. Adebambo Adewopo, had his own taste of this treatment, from COSON for perceived sympathy for MCSN. 

10. COSON eventually launched a case against MCSN, NCC and the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1259/2017 COSON vs. MCSN & Ors.   COSON eventually lost the case and claims that it has filed an appeal against the judgment.

11. PMAN found that many cases instituted on the subject matter of collecting society (CMO) and instigated by COSON’s leadership as PMRS were pending before various courts since 1995, some of which went up to the Court of Appeal and eventually terminated at the Supreme Court all in favour of MCSN.

12. Two of such cases in which judgments were entered in favour of MCSN at the Supreme Court are:

a.    Judgment of 13 July 2018 in SC. 366/2008: Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte vs. Adeokin Records Co. & Anor., reported in (2018) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1643) 550.

b.    Judgment of 14 December 2018 in SC. 425: Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte vs. Compact Discs Technologies Limited & Ors., reported in (2019) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1661) 1.

13. MCSN also has in its legal armoury the recent judgment of the Court of Appeal in Appeal No. CA/L/188/18: Multichoice Nigeria Limited vs. Musical Copyright Society Nigeria Ltd/Gte, in which the Court confirmed an award in damages of the whopping sum of N5.9 Billion in favour of MCSN.  This is a major break-through for copyright owners in Nigeria by a CMO.

14. MCSN also got a judgment in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/274/2010: MCSN vs. COSON & Ors in which the court ordered the striking down of COSON as an incorporated company in Nigeria and declared COSON as not having the requisite standing for approval to operate as a collective management organization in the country.

15. The Court also on 24th June 2020 in a ruling refused an application of COSON for stay of execution of the judgment.

16. PMAN discovered that certain big corporate companies which heavily use musical works and sound recordings in their daily business operations are behind and fuelling the crises by illegally paying royalties to wrong organisations without NCC’s licence or judgment of the court.  Multichoice Nigeria Limited (owners of DSTV and GoTV) is in this class of exploiters of our musical works and sound recordings.

From the foregoing findings, PMAN has reached the following inevitable conclusion, which every objective observer would readily agree with:

a.    Nigerian musicians and creators of works and products are at the receiving end of these crises which have lasted for nearly 30 years. 

b.    While MCSN has maintained its status, focus and objectives in spite of life-threatening challenges and encumbrances including its officials being severally remanded in prison custodies, COSON’s and its predecessors’ leadership have continued to change name, status and platforms like chameleon.  PMAN found from records that COSON started out first as Performing Rights Organisation of Nigeria (PERON); later Performing and Mechanical Rights Society (PMRS) and lately Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) with shifting and confused objectives and focus.  For instance, it is not the objective of a CMO to organise beauty pageants or any form of such activities in which musicians’ funds were wastefully sunk.

c.     MCSN has a plethora of judgments and authorities behind it while COSON has pending cases or pending appeals at appellate court. 

d.    PMAN would not comment on personality issues, as we believe that the affected individuals are capable of speaking or acting for themselves, but PMAN would certainly sieve through the issues to separate truth from lies and would publish its findings in due course.

PMAN declares that the situation can no longer be tolerated and therefore calls for the following to be taken as urgent actions:

               i.     NCC should forthwith deploy its regulatory and enforcement authority against anyone or organisation found to be undermining or infringing the provisions of the Copyright Act 2004 and the Copyright (Collective Management Regulations) 2007. 

              ii.     PMAN would continue to impress it upon and collaborate with NCC to begin to effectively confront all infringers of copyright in Nigeria and PMAN demands that the enforcement powers of the NCC should be made readily available for this action.

             iii.     Consumers of musical works and sound recordings, which are essentially PMAN members’ products are hereby put on notice and requested to obtain necessary licences for the use of the works from the approved organisation(s) as licensed by the NCC and adjudged by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

As it stands, PMAN can no longer stand aloof while its members continue to wallow and die in avoidable poverty, this is according to its President, Pretty Okafor.