Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s sole government approved copyright collective management organization for musical works and sound recordings, has thrown a big challenge to the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to implement the long awaited copyright levy scheme without any further delay.
In a recent letter signed by COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji and addressed to the Honourable Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, copies of which were sent to President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Attorney- General of the Federation and several ministers, COSON lamented the unending protocol, red tape and bureaucracy in the Federal government system which have made it impossible for the stakeholders in the creative industries to benefit from the copyright levy scheme more than 22 years after the law was enacted.
According to the letter, “Section 40 of the Nigerian Copyright Act which provides for the Private Copy Levy has been part of Nigerian law for over 22 years. It was rightly enacted to provide badly needed cushion for practitioners and investors in the creative industry who suffer immensely from the corrosive effect of the unbridled copying and downloading of music, movies and literature.
“Unfortunately, the private copy levy scheme which has for a long time been an important source of income for the creative industries in many countries around the world, including some in our sub region like Ghana and Burkina Faso is yet to see the light of day in Nigeria, one of the world’s most significant producers of music, movies and literary works”
COSON insisted in the letter that with the Private Copy Levy in full operation, the government may no longer need to directly give money to individuals or associations in the creative sector because the stakeholders can earn their own money.
Also in the letter, COSON said that it was aware that the required Order to activate the Private copy levy scheme was made by the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice and published in the Federal Gazette but that the necessary follow up to direct the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Copyright Commission to activate the scheme did not take place.
COSON therefore requested the Minister of Information & Culture to use his good offices to get the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to give the necessary directives for the Private Copy Levy Scheme to take off so that Nigeria can unshackle its music, movies and literary industries and start the process of providing the right environment for the creation of investments, jobs and growth in that part of the economy.
Some may ask: What is the Private Copy Levy? With the advent of new technology, most people no longer obtain their music or movies by buying music cassettes, CDs or DVDs. They down load or blue-tooth them for free and deny owners of the works significant revenue. To compensate for this huge loss which threatens the survival of the creative industries, in many countries around the world, a small levy is charged on the gadgets used for this stealing of intellectual property. The money collected from the levy of such gadgets such as MP3s, MP4s, cellphones, memory cards, flash drives, etc, is paid through the collective management system to the artistes, writers and producers whose music, movies and books are stolen. About 23 years ago, Nigeria became the first country in Africa to provide for the levy in our laws. Sadly, since then, Nigeria has been unable to implement the scheme due to the suffocating bureaucracy. The situation has made several international and domestic investors to flee the country draining our nation of massive revenue, employment and growth.