In what could have once been described as impossible, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) on May 21, 2014, at the prestigious Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos, signed a land-mark music copyright royalty agreement with the entire broadcasting industry in Nigeria. It was celebration galore at the star- studded ceremony attended by the Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mr. Emeka Mba; Director-General, Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. Afam Ezekude; Director-General, Voice of Nigeria, Mallam Abubakar Jijiwa, who is also Chairman of the 400- member Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria, and several other top government officials.
The event signalled the end of the protracted disagreement between the music and broadcast industries in Nigeria spanning over 30 years which culminated in a major crisis in the last quarter of 2013.
It will be recalled that following the back-to-back and significantly publicized copyright infringement law suits filed by COSON against some of Nigeria’s topmost broadcasting stations in 2013, the stations under the aegis of Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON) and Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN) announced the suspension of the broadcast of the music of nearly all the best known members of COSON on radio and TV stations across Nigeria. This resulted in massive public outcry across the country followed by an all-out media war between the music and broadcast industries.
Subsequently, the NBC and NCC had to step in to resolve the matter. This led to the setting up of the COSON/BON/IBAN/NBC/NCC Joint Committee. And under the auspices of the committee, comprehensive negotiations have gone on between COSON and broadcasting stations in Nigeria since the beginning of the year.
Speaking at the land mark signing ceremony, the NBC DG, Mr. Emeka Mba who commended the Chairman of COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji for what he described as his doggedness and commitment to the respect of Intellectual property rights in the Nigerian creative industry, said the event was much more than the resolution of the protracted COSON/ IBAN/BON copyright war.
“This historic event isn’t just about the Nigerian music industry but the creative industry at large. This is about the respect of intellectual property in Nigeria. Let us all see this as the beginning of better things to come for the Nigerian creative industry. This goes to tell other sectors that have been abusing creativity that the time is up. ”
Also speaking at the event, the DG of the NCC, Mr. Afam Ezekude commended COSON and BON/IBAN for sheathing their swords and finally coming to the table to negotiate. He also expressed pleasure at the outcome of the negotiations. Said he: “I did not realize that this day will ever happen in my time but I am glad that it has happened. We are finally here and are part of history. This event is not just about the copyright industry but a great day in the history of Nigeria. This is also proof to all that as a people, Nigerians can do the right thing if they put away individual interest and take on national interest. I encourage all parties involved in this agreement to keep to the letter and content of the agreement.”
Mr. Ezekude recommended that the payment of music copyright royalties be made a condition for the renewal of broadcast licenses henceforth.
BON Chairman, Mallam Abubakar Jijiwa had this to say:
“When the crisis was going on, I knew something will give because of how both industries need each other. I am happy that after several months of heated negotiations, we are here as witnesses of this historic day. This is a new dawn but we must all work hard to ensure that we achieve the objectives of today. I want to assure all that the members of BON and IBAN will meet their obligations by this agreement.”
The Chief Negotiator in the BON/IBAN/COSON/NBC/NCC Joint Committee, Mr. Mac Emakpore thanked the parties for bringing to an end a crisis that according to him threatened the growth of the creative industry in Nigeria. He said, “Several meetings down the line in the midst of heated arguments, we have finally come up with this document which is being signed today. I give God all the glory for this progress made in the history of Nigeria.”
IBAN,represented by famous broadcaster and Managing Director of Ray Power FM, Mr. Kenny Ogungbe expressed satisfaction at the resolution of the crisis that had rocked the music and broadcast industries.
In his words:,
“I am personally happy for what has gone down today. Every organization in the broadcast industry will queue up behind the agreement we have signed here today. It is binding and we are proud that we have made history in Nigeria at 100.”
COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji in his address said, ‘For many years, Nigeria had run away from addressing this problem leaving many frustrated and driving important investment out of our nation. There are many who had given up, believing that the problem will never be solved. Finally, we have sat on the same table with the broadcasting industry and made stringent efforts to find a working agreement on important issues that have stood between our music and broadcasting industries. It may appear like a miracle but it has happened.
While there is no way in which we can undervalue the importance of today’s agreement, I wish to say that our expectations must be tempered as we have had to make significant compromises so that we can move forward. This agreement is therefore an important first step as we begin the journey to end the many bad habits that have held the creative enterprise unprofitable in Nigeria’.
The event was graced by such big wigs of the broadcasting industry as Nigeria’s first ever female TV broadcaster, Ms. Julie Coker; Hon. H.A.B. Fasinro of Smooth FM; Mr. Larry Izamoje of Brila FM; Mr. Deji Awokoya of Beat FM, Classic FM and Naija FM; Ms. Evita Mousalli of Cool FM, Wazobia FM and Naija Info FM, Mr. Adetunji Majeed of NTA and many others.
Among the several key music industry stakeholders who attended the event were the masked music star, Lagbaja and rub-a-dub master, Ras Kimono. Other singing stars present included Azzezat, Daddy Fresh, KSB, et cetra. There were also showbiz impresarios like. Edi Lawani, Efe Omorogbe and Patrick Doyle.
The board of COSON was represented by Mr. Joel Ajayi, Hon John Ewelukwa Udegbunam, Alhaji Sikiru Agboola and General Manager, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji.
– UCHE OLEHI