Protecting IPRs in Nigeria: COSON and Broadcasters Sign Deal

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Introduction

May 21, 2014, marked the commencement of what has been described as a “historic” music copyright royalty agreement between the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and the broadcasting industry in Nigeria.  The agreement was signed by COSON, the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) and the Independent Broadcasters Association of Nigeria (IBAN), and was coordinated by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). The signing of the agreement calmed the contention between the music and broadcast industries in Nigeria that spanned over a 30-year period, and subsequently erupted in a series of lawsuits in 2013.

 Events Leading up to the Signing of the Agreement

Disagreements between COSON and various broadcasting organizations in reference to the payment of royalties for the broadcast of musical works and sound recordings in Nigeria culminated in highly publicized copyright infringement lawsuits in the latter half of 2013.  Under the guidance of BON and IBAN, various broadcasting stations suspended the broadcast of music by well known members of COSON on radio and television stations across Nigeria. Public outcry ensued alongside a media war between the music and broadcast industries.

Consequently, the NBC and NCC intervened in an attempt to resolve the matter and a COSON/BON/IBAN/NBC/NCC Joint Committee was eventually birthed. Comprehensive negotiations occurred between COSON and the broadcasting industry, which ultimately led to the signing of the agreement on May 21, 2014 at Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos.

What the Agreement Means for Broadcasters

The agreement requires all broadcasting organisations in Nigeria to remit copyright royalties for musical works and sound recordings broadcasted by their stations to COSON, the sole collecting society approved to negotiate and receive royalties for the broadcast of musical works and sound recordings in Nigeria.  Furthermore, pursuant to Section 3.13.2.2(b) of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code and for the purpose of royalties, broadcasters shall maintain an accurate log of all music it broadcasts and retain this log for at least three months.

Conclusion

Mr. Emeka Mba, Director General of NBC, whilst speaking at the signing ceremony, commended the Chairman of COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji, for his commitment to the respect of intellectual property rights, and stated, “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.”  While it is difficult to deny that the signing of the agreement represents a tangible and symbolic triumph in the advancement of intellectual property rights’ protection in Nigeria, it is important to recognize that compromises must be made, and promises upheld, on the behalf of broadcasters, COSON and the broader public in order to sustain such achievements.

 

Photo credit: Sebastien Wiertz

About: Tracy Ayodele

Tracy Ayodele is a Canadian lawyer, called to the Bar of Ontario, and a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School. She has a keen interest in IP policy, social innovation and the intersection of technology, development and start-up culture in emerging economies. She is a spirited legal researcher and writer, and co-authored “Hot-tubbing in Canadian Patent Litigation: A Preliminary Assessment” published in the Intellectual Property Journal.

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