Nigerian music industry in limbo as COSON, MCSN battle on

The long battle between Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) as to who is legally responsible to act as a Collective Management Organisation/ Collective Society (CMO) or simply put, collect royalties on behalf of artists rages on.

Recently MCSN issued a release, which was made available to Vanguard, that they have been empowered by NCC to be the sole CMO for the Nigerian Music Industry (NMI).

“In a move putting a lie to the subtle campaign in certain quarters and affirming the progressive direction and development of collective administration of copyright in Nigeria, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), has granted to the Musical Copyright Society Nigeria Ltd/Gte (MCSN) the renewal of its approval or licence to continue to operate as a Collective Management Organisation (CMO) in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act, Cap C.28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and the Copyright (Collective Management Organisation) Regulations 2007. The renewal of MCSN’s approval to continue to operate as a CMO or collecting society for musical works and sound recordings was conveyed by a letter dated 22nd December 2020 from the NCC,” the release reads in part.

The release also declares that COSON’s approval to operate as a CMO has been suspended since 2018 and thus has no legal standing to operate in the capacity of a CMO. But in a counter move, COSON also released a statement of their own, warning the general public not to seek any license for the use of any musical works or sound recordings in the repertoire of COSON from the MCSN.

The statement issued by COSON’s General Counsel, Ms. Simi Wash-Pam, reads in part “ The recently announced so-called renewal of approval of MCSN by the NCC led by Mr. John Asein, is of little significance. This is so because the maneuvering still cannot permit MCSN to legally license musical works or sound recordings not owned by it or which have not been placed in its repertoire by lawful proprietary assignments or by means of any reciprocal representation agreements lawfully entered into.

Ms Wash-Pam also emphasized that under no circumstances is MCSN or any of its agents legally authorized to represent COSON or any of the thousands of members of COSON or lawfully license the use of any of the millions of musical works and sound recordings in the repertoire of COSON as none of the works, whether local or international, which are intellectual property belonging to individuals, has been assigned to MCSN.

Miss Wash-Pam was equally emphatic that not even the Nigerian Copyright Commission has the power under any law known in Nigeria to authorize MCSN or anyone else to license the musical works and sound recordings lawfully assigned to COSON or placed in the COSON repertoire by means of any reciprocal representation agreement.

From the foregoing, it does appear the Nigerian Music Industry may be in a limbo as both COSON and MCSN have artists registered with them separately.

Representation by a CMO requires that the artiste is registered with a CMO, thus granting the CMO powers to act on his behalf. They operate using a fee schedule, for instance blanket licences, which allows users to make use of the entire contents represented by the CMO for a prescribed period.

However, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) has been empowered by the Nigerian Copyright Act (NCA) of 2004 to grant licenses to CMOs to operate and act on behalf of copyright owners. By current development only MCSN has the blessing of NCC to act as Nigerian sole CMO but the fault line in the development and the contention of COSON is that MCSN cannot represent artistes registered with them.

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