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Multiple award winning Nigerian music star, 2face Idibia has called on all Nigerian musicians and other music industry stakeholders to fully support Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) to ensure the realization of the real value and dividend of intellectual property across the country. Mr. Idibia made the call while presenting a paper titled, Slaying the Collective Rights Monster at the Nigerian Entertainment Conference held recently at Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos.

At the packed conference, Mr. Idibia expressed the view that the single powerful voice provided by COSON has ensured the failure of those intent on using divide and rule tactics to pauperize the music industry. According to him, in an environment 'where everyone is busy looking out for their own interests, approving several collective management organizations in Nigeria will simply open the door for people to use the opportunity to feather their own nests at the expense of right owners.

The singer who acknowledged COSON as 'the single collecting society recognized by the law of the land', called on all music industry stakeholders to join hands with COSON and ensure the emergence of a more profitable industry that provides wealth for the nation and employment for Nigerian citizens. He noted that with all hands on deck and selfish interests pushed aside, 'it won't be hard to figure out how to make rights collection work in Nigeria'.

In the words of 2Face Idibia, 'A world class collective management system will not fall on our laps. All stakeholders will need to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in a bid to grow, nurture and sustain it. Is this possible? Obviously, yes! We have started the journey and I'm optimistic we shall succeed.'

Idibia, a major critic of the ban placed by Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON) and Independent Broadcasting Association of Nigeria (IBAN) on the recent ban of the broadcast of the music of top Nigerian artistes who are COSON members, called on all public and commercial users of music to show respect for intellectual property rights and to do away with the mind-set that music is free for anyone who chooses to use it. In his words, 'Commercial users particularly within the broadcast sector behave like they are doing the right owners a favour by deploying their intellectual property. They think the industry owes them for supporting the arts. The truth is, while they do support, we rights owners should realize that our music is the content that forms the basis of the existence of these media houses. It is unfortunate that some play God expecting to be worshipped and will not hold a conversation about royalty payment. Yet, they pay salaries, they pay for diesel, quite a number are expanding. Not every artiste can do the number of shows that some of us are lucky to do. If every right user pays royalties, every artiste will get something to better his lot' In the past, their excuse was that they did not know who to pay to. With COSON that excuse no longer exists'

Also speaking at the event attended by several artistes, the masked singer, Lagbaja, expressed full throated praise for COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji for his passion and doggedness in ensuring the building of a strong collective management system to defend the rights of music industry stakeholders in Nigeria. According to Lagbaja, 'while everyone has been busy sulking and complaining, Okoroji has been busy working and the result is there for all to see. He said that Chief Okoroji's next challenge is to ensure that what he has built is an institution that will outlive him.

Speaking, COSON Chairman, Chief Okoroji said, 'Nigerian oil wells will someday run dry. The wealth which is in the creativity our people will never run dry. Our ability to create great music, make outstanding movies and write great literature will never run dry. Nigeria must understand that in intellectual property, we have our greatest wealth. We must change the mind-set of seeing wealth only in terms of physical property like land, buildings, cars, jewellery, oil, etc. Like most sensible nations have done, we must place the protection of Nigerian intellectual property rights at the core of our economic and diplomatic policies and actions'

Responding to a series of questions from the audience, Chief Okoroji said, 'I want to assure everyone that COSON is working tirelessly to protect the rights of all music creators in the country. The fact that today COSON can successfully take on the biggest banks, hotels, broadcasting institutions and even state governments infringing the rights of musicians in Nigeria is because in COSON we have aggregated the strength of thousands of us. At COSON, we are practically singing with one voice and on the same key. With multiple collecting societies, we would have failed woefully because those intent on exploiting our rights would easily have deployed divide and rule tactics and finished us off. COSON is bold because we are building a very professional organization that is 100% transparent, accountable and with nothing to hide. We have concluded an agreement with the hotel industry in Nigeria and they have begun to pay royalties. I am hopeful that very soon, we will also have an agreement with the broadcast industry. Today, COSON represents collective management organizations in about 85 countries ensuring that the rights of Nigerian musicians in those countries will now be protected.

'Music users in Nigeria must realise that music is not free. It costs money, time and sleepless nights to put out the music we all enjoy. The creators of this music must be compensated appropriately. In Botswana, a country with a population of a little over two million, just about the size of Surulere, a suburb of Lagos, every radio station pays several millions of naira annually to the collecting society for distribution. If this can happen in a country like Botswana, then it can and will happen in Nigeria'.

Key entertainment industry players present at the event include Dr. Sid, Lara George, Efe Omorogbe, Queen Ure, Sean Tizzle, Prof. Pat Utomi, Ayo Animashaun, Tosin Martin, Omotola Jalade-Ekehinde, Ramsey Noah, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, Edi Lawani, Dayo Adeneye, Basket Mouth, Tee A, Olisa Adibua, Obi Asika, Emeka Mba, Toni Kan, Shaibu Hussein, Gbenga George, Nkiru Balonwu, Yaw, Aina Kushoro, Lancelot Odua Imasuen amongst others.

Mayree Uket
New Media