The National Assembly has ordered the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to as a matter of urgency approve and register the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) as a second collecting society in Nigeria.
The directive followed the recommendations of the joint Committees of the House on Justice and Judiciary submitted to the house on Wednesday, December 18, which conducted a public hearing on the NCC and the business of collecting societies in May 2013.
The committee co-chaired by Hon. Ali Ahmad (Justice) and Hon. Aminu Shehu Shagari (Judiciary) had on 11th December 2013 laid the report before the House but the reading was deferred to Wednesday, 18th December 2013.
The report which was unanimously adopted resolved as follows:
1. That, given the state of the law and available technology, NCC is not justified in refusing to register MCSN, one of the two de facto collecting societies, as another collecting society in the music industry in Nigeria. Thus, MCSN having satisfied all the requirement of the law should be registered by the NCC forthwith.
2. That the continued refusal to register MCSN is casting NCC, a regulatory agency, as having been compromised and pursuing only the interests of a particular section of the industry.
3. Urge NCC to rise above board in order to be seen as fair and just.
4. That the NCC should revisit the application of other organisations, which applied to it for licence as collecting societies for performing and mechanical rights in musical work with a view to determining whether or not based on the provisions of the Copyright Act and its Regulation, they presently qualify for licence as collecting societies regardless of the existence or non-existence of a licensed collecting society for musical works in Nigeria.
5. That in the consideration of application for the granting of the licence under the Copyright Act and its Regulations, the NCC should desist from giving considerations to extraneous matters.
6. That the Committees on Justice and Judiciary should liaise with the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation, the NCC, Nigerian Institute of Advanced legal Studies (NIALS), Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC) and all the stakeholders in the copyright sector with a view to carrying out a review of the Copyright Act and its Regulation in order to amongst others:
a. Align their provisions with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
b. Clear any inconsistencies, ambiguities or vagueness relating to registration and licensing of multiple collecting societies.
c. Make the operations of NCC transparent and accountable to the citizens and align with the provisions of international treaties and conventions, particularly Article 5 of the Berne Convention, the Rome Convention and WIPO Copyright Treaty to which Nigerian is a signatory.
d. Make the Act and its Regulations acceptable to stakeholders and Nigerians generally.
It would be recalled that the refusal of the NCC to register or license MCSN as a collecting society has resulted in bitter struggle between the MCSN, NCC and PMRS, which later metamorphosed in COSON.
MCSN has been in existence since 1984 long before the NCC was established by a Military Decree in 1988. Another Military Decree of 1992 gave the NCC powers to approve collecting societies. MCSN applied to the NCC for approval to continue to operate as a collecting society in 1993 but was refused almost 10 months later in 1994, without any reason within the law and the published regulations. PMRS which was incorporated at the end of 1994 was announced as the only approved collecting society.
MCSN contested the refusal of its application both in the law courts and in the public media until May 2005 when it was given approval. PMRS and some officials of the NCC fought the approval and got it revoked but MCSN continued to maintain its position and status as an owner, assignee and exclusive licensee of copyright in its repertoire, while pursuing the unjustified denial of its approval at the law courts.
The NCC later emerged with a new regulation of approval of collecting societies in 2007 with MCSN applying once again to be approved as a collecting society. For no known reason the application was refused with COSON which initially appeared as a newly formed organisation approved as the sole collecting society for the music industry in Nigeria. It was later found that COSON was a mere change of name from PMRS with some NCC’s officials having deep interest in the organisation. While the struggle continues, the National Assembly through the House of Representatives stepped into the matter on 24th May 2013, directing its joint Committees on Justice and Judiciary to investigate the perceived monopoly in the business of collecting societies.
The Joint Committees conducted a Public Hearing on May 31, 2013 in which the NCC, MCSN, COSON, Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON), Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN), Hoteliers Association and many other stakeholders were well represented and actively participated.
It is widely believed that with the Resolutions of the Nigerian Parliament, the real intentions of the law have now been laid bare and the NCC would take appropriate steps to finally and fully resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all concerned in the interest of justice and fair play.