After years of court battle between Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN), the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, in April 2017 directed NCC to approve MCSN as a collective society. Unfortunately, the Attorney General failed to indicate which of the exclusive rights under Section 6 of the Nigerian Copyright Act 2004 are to be administered and monitored by MCSN. This has created an overlap as well as conflict between MSCN and Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON).
Collecting societies in the music industry usually administer reproduction rights and public performance rights in musical works. Whilst mechanical right societies administer reproduction rights, performing rights societies administer public performance rights. However, before the approval of MCSN, COSON was acknowledged as the sole collecting society administering both rights. The reintroduction of MCSN as a collecting society has raised some fundamental questions, including:
a. Which of the two societies is to administer reproduction rights?
b. Which of the two societies is to administer public performance rights?
c. If the two bodies coexist as public performance societies and mechanical societies, who sets the rates for licenses?
d. What if two songwriters own a song, one is a member of COSON and the other, a member of MCSN, can one of the societies issue license and collect royalties on behalf of the other?
e. Can a songwriter join the two societies?
f. Which of the societies can collect royalties for unregistered songs and what is the rule governing black-box monies?
The answers to these questions fall with the Commission as the body responsible for all matters relating to copyright in Nigeria. However, as “collecting society” is a foreign concept adopted by Nigeria, it is expected that the Commission will take into consideration foreign practices in answering these questions. In relation to reproduction rights, many foreign countries have one society that regulates mechanical royalties and like Nigeria, most of them are government affiliated. For example, Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) for England, Composers Authors and Publishers Association (CAPASSO) for South Africa, Harry Fox Agency (HFA) for United States, and Canadian Musical Reproduction Right Agency (CMRRA) for Canada.