Controversy over approval of new PRO in Nigeria
The decision to sanction a new collection society in Nigeria has been met with criticism by the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), formerly the west African nation’s sole authorised copyright collective.
Musical Copyright Society Nigeria (MCSN) – established in 1984 but only last month approved by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) – has the support of several prominent Nigerian musicians and industry figures, including former Stingomania label boss Ope Banwo and reggae artists Orits Wiliki and Myke Pam, with Pam describing COSON as a “corrupt” and “obnoxious monopoly”.
According to the Nigerian Tribune, Nigeria’s attorney-general, Abubakar Malami, told MCSN’s board the approval of a second collection society/performance rights organisation (PRO) is “is in the best interest of the nation and the citizens, and it is in accordance with international best practices. I have the authority and directive of President Buhari Muhammadu to look into any or all forms of monopoly in any sector of the economy and dismantle it. I wish you every success in your operations.”
On his Facebook page, Wiliki summarised the difference between COSON and MCSN: “The MCSN will collect your money on your behalf if you have a contract or agreement with them, but COSON collects money on your behalf whether or not you authorised them to.”
MSCN’s last, unsuccessful bid to be recognised as a government-sanctioned PRO was in 2009. At the time, COSON chairman Tony Okoroji said it was clear MCSN “has no future in Nigeria”, and that with COSON as its sole collection society, “the music industry can move ahead and sing in harmony.”
“The decision to license MCSN as a collecting society is in the best interest of the nation”
The decision by the attorney-general to license MCSN has been followed by a furious war of words between Okoroji and Banwo, with each suing each other for defamation over statements posted online.
After Banwo posted a video on his Facebook page accusing the COSON chief of misappropriating ₦300 million (€858,000) worth of royalty payments, Okoroji’s lawyers hit back with a lawsuit demanding “a conspicuous and unreserved apology”, reports the Vanguard.
That, at the time of writing, hasn’t materialised: In contrast, Banwo has filed a counter-suit of his own, seeking damages of ₦100 million (€286,000) for tortious interference with the activities for MCSN by “those who want to hold the Nigerian copyright collection regime hostage in the grips of a paralysing monopoly”.
In Europe, COSAN/MCSN’s Greek sister PRO, AEPI, also stands accused of monopoly, corruption and the misappropriation of funds, and is currently locked in a dispute with local musicians over the make-up of its board of directors.