The Nigerian Copyright Commission has filed a criminal charge against Copyright Society of Nigeria, Chief Tony Okoroji, Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji, Mrs Bernice Eremieghe and Miss Anne Okomi for carrying out the duties of a collecting society without the approval of the Nigerian Copyright Commission.
In Charge No FHC/L/338C/18, filed on 8th October 2018 at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, the accused persons were alleged to have performed the duties of a collecting Society by demanding and collecting royalties from Noah’s Ark of 9 Sowemimo Street, GRA, Ikeja Lagos and carrying on the business of negotiating and granting licenses on behalf of Copyright owners without the approval of the Nigerian Copyright Commission and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under sections 39 (4), (5) and (6) of the Copyright Act Cap C 28 Laws of the Federation of Nigerian 2004.
It will be recalled that the Nigerian Copyright Commission had on 30th April 2018, pursuant to relevant provisions of the Copyright Act and the Copyright (Collective Management Organisation) Regulation 2007, suspended the license it granted to COSON to operate as a collecting society following the refusal of the management of COSON to comply with directives of the Commission issued after an investigations into a lingering dispute in the governing board of COSON which led to conflicting claims by two groups as the legitimate governing board of the society.
The Management of COSON has continued to disregard the directive of the Commission, and also acted in violation of the Order of suspension of its operating license as a collective management Organization.
The provisions of Section 39 the Copyright Act requires any person wishing to operate as a collective management Organization to obtain prior approval of the Nigerian Copyright Commission. In May 2010, COSON was granted approval to operate as a Collective Management Organization for Music and Sound recording, Pursuant to the said provision, and the provisions of the Copyright (Collective Management Organizations) Regulations 2007.
The Nigerian Copyright Commission is empowered to sanction a collective management organization for failing to comply with the regulatory provisions regarding its operations or refusing to comply with the directive of the Commission. Such sanctions may include suspension of the operating license of a Collecting society and in appropriate cases, revocation of the License.
Furthermore, it is an offence under the Copyright Act to operate as a collecting Society or otherwise carry out the functions of a collective management Society without a valid licence of the Nigerian Copyright Commission. The criminal charge filed against COSON and some members of its management team, followed an investigation by the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the outcome of which showed that COSON has acted in violation of the relevant provisions of the Law.
The Director General of the Commission has continued to reassure copyright owners in the music and sound recording industries of the commitment of the Commission to entrench a transparent and accountable system of Collective management, to enable right owners receive duly earned royalties without being short-changed. Users of musical works are also encouraged to obtain appropriate copyright licenses from only approved collective management organizations.