VETERAN film maker, Mahmood Ali-Balogun has read the riot act to those violating the copyright of artistes. In an interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, the respected cinematographer said, it’s no longer business as usual with the berth of a Collective Management Organisation (CMO), registered by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).
According to Ali-Balogun, Audio Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS), which he is the chairman of the board would be in the best interest of the creative industry. He further said, compensation must be paid for every use of intellectual property by every broadcast media or organization that uses such works for profitability.
The pioneer AVRS chairman also explained the circumstances and processes that led to the formation of the body that is to films, TV and other audio visual works what the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) is to the music industry incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, AVRS has been approved by the NCC as the sole CMO that negotiates the use of audio visual works, licensing them and to collect royalties on behalf of creative right holders.
Congratulations on the unveiling of the Audio Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS).
How does it feel to be elected to lead the collective management organization (CMO) for audio visual works?
First, it’s a challenge and I feel I’ve been called to serve the industry.
You really need a lot of work to do in terms of awareness since AVRS just berthed?
Yes, we have to work with members who are mainly movie stars and creative personalities to promote AVRS. You journalists also have to project us to the public.
A lot of stakeholders have confidence in you, especially when your contribution to the creative industry is taken into consideration.
Every aspect of me is coming to AVRS. My integrity, transparency and accountability.
What level of cooperation do you want from stakeholders?
Serious one. A lot of cooperation because this will benefit everyone in the industry. I mean every stakeholder.
How was the idea of establishing a collective management organization for audio-visual works mooted?
The process of establishing Audio-Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS), started at the consultation meeting organized by World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and Nigeria Film Corporation (NFC) in 2012. The unanimous decision of the participants at those meetings was to establish a CMO for film and TV rights holders, that is a collective management that would benefit all rights holders in the industry, both economically and from efficiency perspective.
Technically, collective management as a collaborative effort works on not-for-profit basis. Since the revenue collected by a CMO is money it holds in trust for right holders.
So, what followed the inaugural meeting?
In order to prepare a concrete plan of action, a small preparatory working body of nine persons was established. I was then endorsed to coordinate the work to start promptly. The task of the preparatory body was to prepare a blueprint to stakeholders by September 30, 2012. The plan was submitted to the joint platform of various stakeholders for discussion and decision, with the aim to have necessary structures in place by December 2012.
How did you carry other stakeholders along in all of these?
Cooperation with NCC was an important part of the preparation and a condition for its successful completion. The commission provided the necessary regulatory guidance with WIPO also supporting us. So, we were on track from inception. As cooperation among audio-visual industry stakeholders is considered a prerequisite for successful operation, inclusiveness of the platform is essential, therefore, the existence of coalitions, in terms of guilds and associations was taken into account from the very beginning.
How did you arrive at the name AVRS?
At the September 2012 meeting, concrete steps were taken towards the establishment of a joint CMO. Memorandum of Articles of Association were presented, discussed and agreed in principle. The name of the CMO was decided to be Audio Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS). A national workshop was held on May 13, 2013, at the premises of NFC, Ikoyi, Lagos (NFC provided its premises for our meetings and discussions, including secretarial assistance).
The aim of the workshop was to discuss issues that are necessary for the next step in the formation of AVRS. Participants were also enlightened on the work of CMOs and the rights and responsibilities of members by representatives of WIPO and NCC. By July 12, 2013, AVRS was registered by CAC as a company limited by guarantee. The certificate of registration by CAC was a prerequisite for making an application to NCC for a license to operate as a CMO.
How did you emerge chairman?
By the end of July 2013, the subscribers to AVRS held an election as required by its Articles of Association that ushered in its directors who at its first board meeting in September 2013 elected Mr. Ali-Balogun as its chairman. In place is a management team of licensing manager, account manager, licensing officer and general manager, Ms. Eme Akiba-Eyo running the company.
Who are the directors of AVRS?
The management board of AVRS comprises Mr. Mahmood Ali-Balogun, chairman and directors. They are: Mr. Aina-Kusoro Olurotimi, Mr. Peddie Okao, Mr. Francis Onwochei, Mr. Tunji Bamishigbin, Dr. Ahmed M. Saraki, Chief Gabriel Okoye, Mr. Emmanuel Isikaku, Chief Osita Okeke, Prince Jide Kosoko, Mr. Patrick Doyle, Miss Emem Isong, Mr. Bond Emeruwa, Mr. Andy Amanechi and Mr. Fidelis Duker. We have nine financial partners (producers and executive producers) and six creative partners (two directors, two screen writers and two actors).
Who runs AVRS?
The General Manager of AVRS is Ms. Eme Akiba-Eyo. She actually resumed on January 6, 2014. She leads the management team of AVRS for now. We are also making necessary contacts in order to source for the right kind of personnel that would drive the AVRS mandate. We have enjoyed the services of a lawyer, Mr. Hector Decker, who had assisted AVRS last year in putting together some reports.
How did AVRS secure NCC’s CMO license?
An application for a CMO license was made to NCC by AVRS in January 2014. After what the Director General of NCC described as a painstaking process of verification and assessment, the commission came to the conclusion that AVRS has complied with all relevant statutory requirements under the Copyright Act, Cap C28, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004; and the Copyright (CMO Regulations) 2007; a process the Minister of Justice also described as transparent and painstaking, the NCC then on November 20, 2014 in Abuja presented to AVRS the Certificate of Approval to operate as the sole CMO for audio-visual works, comprising films and other audio-visual works in broadcast and related media.
Now that AVRS has berthed, what are your words to stakeholders?
We want to appeal to every stakeholder, especially users of audio visual works that it is no longer business as usual. Compensation must be paid for every use of our intellectual property (IP) by every broadcast media or organizations that use our works for business. Goal posts have moved, licenses must be obtained for exploitation of films and broadcast works. The labour of our creators past and present must not only be in vain but must be compensated now.
For our colleagues in the IP business, it is time to jump unto the train before it gathers speed. Yes, for us to have a relevant and working CMO, more advocacy and enlightenment is required but the time to join is now.
How would you eliminate the conflict that would likely arise with stakeholders as you manage your members copyright?
AVRS don’t envisage any serious conflict. We are willing to dialogue with every stakeholder on the best way forward. The board and the management are available at stakeholder’s behest or otherwise for us to jaw-jaw. We need everybody’s cooperation and understanding to succeed on this journey.
Who are you most grateful to in all of these?
I cannot conclude without acknowledging the support of these institutions: WIPO, NCC, NFC, COSON, NORCODE and great individuals like Chief Tony Okoroji, Mr. Michael Akpan, Ms. Tarja Ollson and my lovely wife, Nkechi Ali-Balogun. I cannot forget my colleagues on the board, the subscribers and members of the audio-visual community who honoured us at the unveiling of AVRS.
– UCHE OLEHI