Following a directive issued by the attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami, the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) is now an official collecting body approved by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).
The directive follows a near three-decade long bid for approval by the MCSN. Alongside this appeal, the MCSN had also sought to prevent the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) from claiming to be the only body empowered by law to be Nigeria’s collection establishment.
In 2009, the MCSN applied to the NCC to be approved as a collecting body but was refused the following year without a reason given. In 2014, a case by the MCSN against COSON was thrown out of court. At the time, COSON chairperson Tony Okoroji spoke in praise of the judge and his ruling.
“Justice Abang has shown that he has a clear grasp of the issues and the law in this matter,” he said. “He has not allowed himself to be obfuscated by the multiple litigation maneuver which the MCSN has deployed in a desperate search for a decision it can use to confuse the general public and in particular the users of music. The judgment is crisp, clear and unambiguous. The music industry can move ahead and sing in harmony.”
In October last year, the Court of Appeal struck out a case brought in by the MCSN. Again Okoroji reacted, saying, “Even the blind can now see and the deaf must have heard that the MCSN, whose officers are facing various criminal charges in different courts in Nigeria, ought to have shut its doors and shut them permanently.
“Unequivocally, the MCSN has no future in Nigeria. The good news is that no copyright owner in the music industry has to suffer in anyway as a result of these decisions. The doors of COSON are open and our arms spread wide to welcome the handful of copyright owners in our industry who may have been misled to stick with the MCSN in the hope that the organisation would be given a lifeline by the courts.”
Refusing to back down, the MCSN took its case to the National Assembly, where it has now found reprieve, with Malami agreeing that "the continued refusal to register the MCSN is casting the commission as having compromised and pursuing only the interest of a particular section of the industry”.
COSON was registered in 1989 and describes itself as “sole collective management organisation for musical works and sound recordings”. The new development in favour of the MCSN may lead to an amendment of COSON's own description.
On social media, MCSN chairperson Orits Wiliki shared a report of the new development and received congratulations. Asked about the difference between the MCSN and COSON, Wiliki said: "The MCSN will collect your money on your behalf if you have a contract or agreement with them but COSON collects money on your behalf whether or not you authorised them to."