By Wasiu Popoola
The Federal Government through the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has directed the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), to “issue with immediate effect, an approval by way of license to the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte (MCSN) to operate as a collecting society for the purpose of the Copyright Act.
This directive apparently was as a result of extensive investigation into the refusal of the NCC to approve MCSN as a collecting society which resulted into several years of struggle between the Society and the NCC. When the NCC refused to license MCSN as a collecting society in 2010, it did not offer or give any reason for the refusal but went ahead to approve another rival body, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), though which was claimed to be newly formed with the sole licence to operate as a collecting society in the entire music industry. This did not go down well with the MCSN, which promptly went to court to challenge its non-approval.
In the course of the struggle, the MCSN took the matter to the National Assembly where the House of Representatives, after an investigative public hearing conducted by its joint Committees on Justice and Judiciary, passed several resolutions one of which the NCC was directed to forthwith approve the MCSN as a collecting society but which the NCC refused to carry out.
In the directive, which was exclusively obtained by the BLACKFACE MEDIA, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice stated that from his findings, he agrees with the resolutions of the National Assembly that
i. 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.
ii. The Commission should rise above board in order to be seen as fair and just.
iii. In considering applications for grant of license under the Act and its regulations, the Commission should desist from giving consideration to extraneous matters.
iv. The Copyright Act should be subject to review.
Following the findings, the Honourable Minister thus invoked the power conferred on him by Section 50 of the Copyright Act and as the Chief Law Officer of the Republic directed the NCC to comply with his earlier directive to issue with immediate effect, an approval by way of licence to MCSN to operate as a collecting society.
The Minister further directed the “NCC to withdraw any pending cases/appeals, criminal or otherwise instituted by the Commission in all courts” and that the NCC should urgently liaise with the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the House Committee on Justice and Judiciary, the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), the Nigerian Law Reform Commission (NLRC) and all stakeholders in the copyright sector with a view to carrying out a review or reform of the Copyright Act in order to remove any inconsistencies, ambiguities and vagueness relating to the regulation and licensing of collecting societies and to make the Act and Regulations acceptable to stakeholders and Nigerians generally.
When the Director General of the NCC was contacted, an officer simply responded that the Commission has carried out the Honourable Attorney General’s directive by way of issuing an approval to MCSN and the letter conveying the approval and certificate of approval, copies of which have already been sent to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation as a confirmation of compliance, would be received by MCSN any moment.
When contacted for his reaction on this development, the Chairman of MCSN, Orits Williki, stated that he was presently short of words as he cannot immediately describe how he feels, but gives all glory to God. He however stated that while feeling grateful to the Honourable Minister and the President, he now believes that this administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is truly a government of change and the fight against corruption and abuse of office which has now touched the copyright sector will go further down to all sectors as the looted repertoire of MCSN shall be fully recovered just like the Government is recovering the loot of the nation’s treasury.