The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) recently announced that it has suspended the operating license of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (Ltd/Gte) (COSON).
According to the NCC, in line with the provision of Regulation 19 (2) of the Copyright (Collective Management Organizations) Regulation 2007, it has suspended the operating license of the COSON as a Collective Management Organization (CMO) for music and sound recordings, following the approval of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN.
According to statement issued by the NCC, the Director-General of the Commission, Mr. Afam Ezekude, disclosed this in a document stating that the suspension is a follow-up to the continued failure and/or refusals of COSON to carry out the directive of the Commission issued via its letter dated February 19, 2018.
So what does this mean and what are the immediate financial implications?
NCC states that the DG, had earlier conveyed the decision of the Commission to the General Manager of COSON, in a letter dated April 30, 2018. According to the letter, COSON is to henceforth desist from negotiating and granting copyright licences, collecting royalties on behalf of copyright owners, or otherwise perform the functions of a CMO, except as directed by the NCC.
The NCC in a separate letter dated May 3, 2018 also directed the Management of COSON to refrain from making further withdrawals or expenses from the funds of COSON, within the period of suspension, except for purposes of meeting personnel emoluments. Other expenses of COSON, outside personnel emolument may however be made upon permission from the Director-General of the Commission.
The General Manager of COSON has also been directed to forward to the Director-General, NCC, within 7 days, details of all bank accounts operated by COSON.
NCC states that the it needed to address the need to safeguard funds belonging to owners of Copyright in Music and Sound Recordings, whose works are administered by COSON, and to enable the Commission undertake necessary compliance checks in line with relevant provisions of the Copyright (Collective Management Organizations) Regulations 2007, which is why it issued the request for financial accounting.
What led to the suspension?
On it website, NCC states:
It would be recalled that the Commission received a petition from some members of the Governing Board of COSON, requesting the Commission to intervene and investigate the events at the Extra Ordinary General Meeting of COSON held on Tuesday, December 19, 2017. After due consideration of the petition, the Commission issued directives to the Management of COSON, not to implement certain decisions irregularly taken at the extraordinary General Meeting held on December 19, 2017, which were ostensibly in breach of statutory provisions and regulations guiding the operations of COSON.
Following the issuance of the directive, the Commission received a letter dated February 23, 2018 signed by the General Manager of COSON, indicating clearly the unwillingness of Management of COSON to comply with the directive of the Commission. Other activities of Management of COSON which are glaring in the public domain have also confirmed the refusal of the Management to comply with the directive of the Commission as it is obliged to do under relevant laws and regulation guiding its operations.
The DG, NCC, Mr. Afam Ezekude, has observed that the development in its entirety does not augur well for the development of Copyright administration in Nigeria. Aside undermining the efficient administration of COSON to the utter disadvantage of authors and right owners in Music Industry, the continuing defiance of COSON Management to the directive of the Commission is a clear indication of its unwillingness to operate within the framework of the Copyright Act and Regulations guiding operations of Collective Management Organizations in Nigeria, for which there are clear consequences and sanctions.
The NCC states that it has advised the Management of COSON to take necessary steps to comply with its directives and that if COSON fails to comply there is possibility that it will face additional sanctions.