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‘The state of the Nigerian music industry’ – Chief Tony Okoroji

COSON Okoroji

NO MUSIC DAY 2015 OFFICIAL Statement issued on behalf of the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition by Chief Tony Okoroji, Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON)

Today is September 1. It is “NO MUSIC DAY” in Nigeria, a day the music industry has dedicated to bringing the attention of the Nigerian nation to the widespread infringement of the rights of song writers, composers, performers, music publishers, record labels and other stakeholders in the music industry in Nigeria.

As we have done every year in the past six years, we have once again requested broadcasting stations in the country to devote a substantial amount of broadcast time today to programs which highlight the significant abuse of the rights of creative people in Nigeria. This is to show solidarity with the Nigerian creative community ravaged by piracy and other forms of rights infringement. Newspapers and magazines are also requested to publish special features on these issues in the coming days.

As we mark the 7th edition of “NO MUSIC DAY’, we all ought to remember that historic week in 2009 when for several days, a group of Nigerian artistes held huge rallies at the National Theatre in Lagos and went on a week-long hunger strike to protest the cruel abuse of the rights of artistes in Nigeria. For the first time in the history of mankind, the music industry in a country called for the halt of the broadcast of music all over the country for a whole day, September 1, 2009. This action captured the imagination of the world.

As we mark ‘NO MUSIC DAY’, we must ask all Nigerians to spare a thought for a world without music. What kind of world would that be?

Every year, in marking ‘NO MUSIC DAY’, our objective has been to engage the Nigerian people and the various governments on the potential contributions of Nigerian music to the socio-economic development of the Nigerian nation and the necessity to fully deploy the substantial comparative advantage which our nation possesses in this area so as to provide hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs to the teeming masses of Nigerian youth who parade the streets of our country with little hope.

This is the first ‘NO MUSIC DAY’ under the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari, a period of important soul searching for the Nigerian nation. It may have become clear to many that the days when oil ruled the world may have gone for good. We may indeed have seen the last of the era of the 100 dollars a barrel of crude oil. Our crude oil of the future may have to be drilled from the ingenuity of young Nigerians. That ingenuity can be seen in how wide our music, movies, literature, fashion, programming and similar products of the creative endeavour are in demand across the world. This is clearly an area in which Nigeria has significant comparative advantage. Unfortunately, both at home and abroad, these creative products are being stolen with impunity without our nation seeming to understand the impact on our economy.

We, in the Nigerian music industry today call on President Muhammadu Buhari to spark an intellectual property revolution in Nigeria, without delay. It is our view that in a world which is rapidly being swept over by the digital economy and the digital revolution, the Nigerian nation will hugely regret it if it does not quickly tool itself with the full understanding of the concept of intellectual property and the economic necessity to defend intellectual property rights.

We wish to underline the fact that the important investments required to actualize the hundreds of thousands of potential jobs which the Nigerian creative sector can generate and the billions of naira in revenue accruable to the nation will not take place except investors are guaranteed that their investments will be protected.

We believe that President Buhari can today give a marching order to his Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo who has the training and the intellect to fully grasp the issues, to kick start an intellectual property revolution in Nigeria. Then we can assure our citizens that if anyone can create something of value, the country will protect that person to enjoy the fruits of his or her labour. Then we can assure domestic and international investors that Nigeria is no longer a nation of ‘monkey dey work, baboon dey chop’.

We wish to bring to the attention of the Federal Government that in many Nigerian cities today, thousands of young men with laptops and without the authorization of the owners of the works, are openly compiling the most popular songs in the market for a fee, transferring these songs to mobile handsets, mp3s, mp4s, i pods, i pads, or flash drives for whoever has money to pay! The emergence of this kind of brazen digital piracy is a menace which has resulted in the dwindling sales of physical music products like CDs and DVDs. It is in the expectation of this kind of development that Section 40 of the Nigerian Copyright Act provides for the Private Copy Levy scheme.

Unfortunately well over 22 years since the promulgation of the law, the unending protocol, red tape and bureaucracy in the Federal government system have made it impossible for the stakeholders to benefit from this important scheme. The private copy levy scheme which for many years has been in  operation in many countries around the world, including some in our sub region, is intended to provide badly needed cushion for the stakeholders in the creative industry suffering from the unbridled copying and downloading of creative materials made possible by modern technology. With the scheme in full operation, the government may no longer need to directly give money to individuals or associations in the creative sector because they can earn their own money.

We are aware that the required order to activate the Private copy levy scheme was made by the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice and published in the Federal Gazette. The necessary follow up to direct the customs and the Nigerian Copyright Commission to activate the scheme did not take place. We call on President Buhari to give that directive without further delay.

Similarly, we request the new government of President Muhammadu Buhari to carry out an audit of the various government agencies created to assist the creative sector in Nigeria. We regret that most of these agencies, with leadership best described as square pegs in round holes, have become an end in themselves and are contributing nothing of value to the nation.

We also call on the government to act without further delay to get the National Endowment Fund for the Arts up and running so that there are resources to take care of funding for creative projects and the welfare of creative people who have fallen into hard times.

As the digital age evolves more and more, it is clear that the shape of the music industry will be remarkably different. Already the method of music distribution is changing rapidly with the CD gradually disappearing and cell phones, i pads, i pods, Mp3s, Mp4s, memory chips, memory sticks and similar devices replacing the CD. The internet has also become a major source of music. These developments pose tremendous challenges to the industry as the business models cannot remain the same.

It is in recognition of the above that between September 28 and 29 at the Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos, COSON in collaboration with the World Bank assisted Growth & Employment in States (GEMS) project will hold a two day Nigerian Digital Music Summit which will bring together the key players in the production and distribution of music in the digital era in Nigeria assisted by experts from around the world so that the basic rules of engagement in the new environment are established and every person or organization in the value chain can get a fair deal, a condition necessary for stability and growth of the industry.

Just last week, COSON sent a strong delegation to meet with the Inspector General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase to discuss the actions that the police can take in the new dispensation to bring the piracy situation in the country under control. We are following up on decisions taken at that meeting.

COSON remains determined to substantially increase the royalty distributable to stakeholders in the music industry to match the massive use of music in our nation. That was why in 2013, COSON was compelled to institute several multi billion Naira law suits against some users of music and sound recordings in Nigeria.  That action resulted in the major dispute between COSON and the broadcast industry which raged for several months. We are happy that ultimately good sense prevailed leading to the signing of the historic COSON/BON/IBAN/NBC/NCC music copyright agreement in May of 2014. We once again wish to thank all those who contributed to making that agreement possible.

Sadly, we must once again draw the attention of the nation to the fact that despite the substantially reduced tariffs and the public pledge of the broadcasting industry to keep to the terms of the COSON/BON/IBAN/NBC/NCC agreement, a good number of the broadcasting stations in the country are still deploying music without paying the very low royalty tariffs negotiated on their behalf with the help of the NBC and NCC. COSON is therefore constrained to call on the NBC and the leaderships of both BON and IBAN to compel their members to act responsibly and meet their obligations without further delay.

Similarly, we call on the leaderships of the Hotel & Personal Services Employers Association of Nigeria (HOPESEA) and Hotel Owners Forum Abuja (HOFA) to direct each and every one of their members to immediately respect the agreement which they freely entered into with COSON.

We take this opportunity to remind the transport industry across Nigeria that in line with the nation’s copyright law and international best practice, they cannot deploy music in their busses, taxis, airplanes, trucks, boats, stations, parks, airports, etc. without the appropriate copyright licence.

We wish to make it clear that COSON is resolved to protect the rights of music industry practitioners and to collect copyright royalties for the use of their music and sound recordings in Nigeria. That resolve is rock solid. We will not waver and there will be no sacred cows. When we need to go to the courts, we will. If we need to take other actions, we will. We wish to repeat that it is far cheaper to obtain a COSON licence for the music used by anyone than to engage COSON in an expensive dispute.

We, once again call on the National and State Assemblies to ensure that clear provisions are made in the budgets of the different government owned broadcast stations and other organizations for the payment of copyright royalties. We refuse to accept a situation where the organizations continue with the open stealing of the intellectual property of innocent creative people simply because ‘there is no budget’ for the payment for the key raw material they deploy in their operations.

As the nation attempts to reinvent itself, we believe that this is the time for creative people in Nigeria to stand up, take responsibility and establish strong lobbies which are required in every democracy to positively shape policies.

God bless Nigeria.



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