Nigeria: A Case For Multiple Collecting Societies For The Nigerian Entertainment Industry

Last Updated: 7 July 2010
Article by Uche Nwokocha and Segun Aluko

The Nigerian Entertainment Industry has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years. Its story did not just start; its development has spanned decades. From the early days of shooting movies with analog cameras and the introduction of celluloid, the Nigerian movie industry had recorded some success. So also has the music industry. Nigerian music and music videos enjoy quality play on both home and foreign media airwaves.

Although there is no data to verify its growth, but over the years the Nigerian Entertainment Industry has recorded unprecedented growth in gross revenue since the last decade. According to a writer, it must have grossed billions of Naira (hundreds of millions in United States Dollars) despite low professionalism in its operations, piracy and lack of adequate data.

Piracy is one big problem militating against the Nigerian entertainment industry. This has eaten deep into the industry and stunted its growth. Although, the industry has been ranked third after the United States' Hollywood and India's Bollywood, the Nigeria's entertainment hub is not specific. Some have argued it is Lagos, in Surulere to be precise, while others believe it is Enugu, South East Nigeria and environs where most of the home videos are shot and produced for marketing in the Alaba Market of Lagos. Due to the dearth of professionalism and inadequate data, the industry has lost so much to piracy and other militating factors.

The artistes have borne the brunt of this development the most. After investing so much into producing their music, there are few or nothing to show for it in terms of returns on investment. The organisation structure of the industry is defective, to say the least. It is apparent that many of our musicians, producers and movie artists enjoy huge success in their popularity and fan base; however they cannot in any way be compared with their counterparts in Hollywood and Europe. Many of them live in penury and are left with financial support from colleagues and corporate entities in terms of endorsements.

The need to have a solid collective licensing structure in place, in view of these developments is no doubt ripe. Section 39 of the Nigeria Copyright Act, Cap C24, Laws of Federation of Nigeria, provides for the establishment of a collecting society to represent the interest of artistes and collect royalties on their behalf. In spite of this laudable provision, the operations of the collecting societies have been slowed down by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).

History is not far from us. There were two collecting societies in Nigeria namely: Performing and Mechanical Rights Society (PMRS) and the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN). Both collecting societies were duly licensed by the NCC about a decade ago, to operate and collect royalties on behalf of their members. However, recently the Director-General of the NCC said in a newspaper report that the collecting societies were operating illegally because no such licenses were issued in the first place. This, of course, opened floodgate of litigation between the societies and the NCC. Presently, the NCC has instituted a criminal action against MSCN for operating illegally.

Like the proverbial two elephants fighting, the artistes have suffered the consequences of these developments. A blogger once wrote that according to a Nigerian superstar, D'banj while speaking to the House Committee on Information and National Orientation, over USD30,000 are being held by MTV in an escrow account as royalties to Nigerian artistes but there is no collecting society in place.

Recently, the NCC decided to issue licences to Collective Management Organisation (CMO); another way of describing the Collecting Societies. But in order to avoid the intrigues and controversies that plagued the formerly licensed collecting societies, there has been a debate on whether to license only one or have more than one collecting society. In my opinion, the more the merrier if we have more than one collecting society. We should borrow a leaf from the United States of America which has about three main collecting societies (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC). In the United Kingdom there are over twenty collecting societies spread over different genres of intellectual property. So also is the practice in Brazil where there are many collecting societies including those representing newspaper writers and authors, literary artists and many more! We run the risk of producing a monopoly where we have just one collecting society and this may not aid fair competition among industry practitioners. The monopoly formerly enjoyed by PMRS created an unhealthy rivalry with the MCSN. This, I believe can be avoided if the NCC can licence as many organisations who meet the criteria to operate as collecting societies as required by the Copyright Act and subsidiary regulations.

There are no doubt many opportunities in place for the collecting societies and the artistes. If there are multiple as against sole collecting society, artistes can make their own choice. Apart from this, there will be extensive collaboration between Nigerian Artistes and their foreign counterparts since the latter are rest assured of their royalties. Keep in mind that the respective collecting societies in different countries do interface on behalf of their members for the purpose of collecting their royalties all over the world.

NCC, in this instance, will only act to ensure that adequate facilities and professionalism are put in place for the effective operation of the collecting societies. The lawyers have a huge role to play in this. So also are the artistes and the administrators of the collecting societies. NCC should not do more than overseeing the operation of the collecting societies particularly making sure that their operations comply with the requisite laws and regulations.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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