The Copyright Society of Nigeria is the sole collecting society licensed by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to manage the rights and the repertory of musical works belonging to its member-artistes. Even though the Copyright Act 2 generally accommodates the registration of more than one collecting society by the regulatory body, it limits such registration to a single body in any given class of rights unless the NCC determines that the rights of the affected artistes are not adequately managed by the existing collecting society. This restriction, introduced by the Act, has resulted in the de facto existence of a collecting society (COSON) with sole (and perhaps absolute) authority to manage musical works and sound recordings to the exclusion of any other entity in Nigeria. Whether this state of affairs is desirable and meets the needs of its members is questionable, and it is equally doubtful whether this outcome was intended by the drafters of the Copyright Act and with full knowledge of the likely consequences.

In a recent lawsuit filed by the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) against MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd., at the Federal High Court Sitting in Lagos, this issue, among others, came up by way of preliminary points of law for the Court's determination prior to trial. Unfortunately, the judge declined to consider them at this early stage, thereby skipping a rare opportunity to have these legal questions resolved with some certainty. Although the parties are currently in settlement talks in the hopes of avoiding a full blown trial, a resolution of these questions one way or the other should clarify the applicable laws at issue and significantly advance the growth and practice of Copyright law in the country.

Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) v. MTN Nigeria Communications Limited (MTNN) [FHC/L/ CS/619/2016]:

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