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Ben Bruce
It is not uncommon to attribute the many problems of Nigeria to the government. The problems facing the Nigerian entertainment industry has thus been attributed to the government over and over again. It is not my intention to completely absolve the government but it would be absolutely unfair to say that the government has ignored the plights of the entertainment industry completely or that the government has not taken steps to protect the interests of musicians and entertainers, songwriters inclusive.

In all industries, the basic role of the government is to provide the enabling environment for growth and development. Upon the performance of this basic role, it would then be left to the industry stakeholders to work in that enabling environment and through the structures which the government has provided in order to actualize the much desired growth. Government cannot and is not expected to do everything.

What then has the Nigerian government done to provide the enabling environment for the growth of the Nigerian entertainment industry? What structures have been put in place? I might as well mention at this point, though it is not the purpose of this article, that the Nigerian government has just provided a two hundred million dollar fund for the use of the industry. This has been mentioned through different media but was particularly confirmed by Mr. Ben Murray-Bruce, president of the Silverbed group, at the recently concluded Nigeria Music Video Awards (NMVA).

More importantly, however, is that we have laws designed to protect the interest of songwriters; and in terms of providing structures, the Federal government, in May 2010, approved the Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte (COSON) to look after the interests of Songwriters, amongst others. Many songwriters are unaware of this development and neither are they aware of how they may combine the provisions of the relevant Nigerian laws with the COSON structure to actualize their dreams and get the full reward for their compositions.

It is the responsibility of songwriters or aspiring songwriters to seek out information on how they may fully avail themselves of the opportunities in Nigeria, and to proceed to utilize these opportunities rather than sit back and continue to complain that the government has not done anything. What the government has done so far can be immensely beneficial to a songwriter if fully tapped into.

A songwriter writes songs which are often exploited by singers, record companies, movie makers, advertising agencies, etc. It doesn't matter if the songwriter actually exists in several of these capacities in relation to his songs as is often found in the country, what matters is that the songs are exploited and that the revenue accruing and accruable to the songwriter from these areas ought to get to the songwriter.

The summary of how this is to be done is to ensure that formal and proper contracts are signed between the songwriter and his publishing company, record company, singers or any other person who may put those songs to use through one form of exploitation of the other. The songwriter has a responsibility to join COSON and to keep notifying the organization of all his works and all known uses of his works. More details would be provided in further episodes.