Alphabet War

07 December 2008

About a month ago, Ip's What's Up posted an entry about the status of collecting societies in Nigeria.  The main issue is the ongoing feud between the two former collecting societies, MCSN and PMRS, and the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).  Well, it looks like the beef is getting bigger.

The Guardian newspaper published a story this past Friday about allegations flying back and forth between MCSN and the NCC.  The news article is a bit cryptic, especially for those of us who are not fluent in Nigerian English, but it appears that the NCC and MCSN are on opposing sides in two different matters.


First, there is the old matter of MCSN suing the NCC (as its counterpart, PMRS is doing) over the Collecting Society Regulations and the section of the Copyright Act that authorizes these regulations.  (For those who are interested, the MCSN suit is: Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria LTD/GTE v. Nigerian Copyright Commission, SUIT NO. FHC/L/CS/478/2008, but this Ipper has no idea where you can find any reporting on the case.)  Basically, MCSN claims that the relevant sections of the Nigerian Copyright Act violate MCSN's fundamental human rights as protected by Sections 40 and 44 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as well as violating Articles 10 and 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.


The Guardian article discusses a second conflict between the NCC and MCSN.  According to the article, the NCC is currently investigating MCSN based on a complaint from the International Federation of Phonographic Industries.  The complaint alleges that MCSN is pirating films, both reproducing them and publishing them.  (Publishing, under the Nigerian Copyright Act, is making a work available to the public.)

MCSN claims that this complaint never existed and was only fabricated by the NCC in order to make it appear that the NCC's raids on the MCSN offices were justified.  NCC says it's legitimate.  MCSN says that NCC is harassing MCSN and its affiliates by questioning collecting societies in the UK (Performing Rights Society and Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) and raiding MCSN offices in Nigeria.  NCC says it had to question the UK societies because MCSN claimed to have received authorization for their alleged pirating behavior from those societies.

Clear as Mud

This Ipper is quite confused by all of this, and doesn't really know what to believe.  Both parties involved in this battle have been known to spin things a little bit away from the truth.  What is certain is that MCSN does not have authorization to act as a collecting society, and that, in general, the NCC has authority to conduct investigations in matters of alleged piracy.  The Director General has stated that MCSN cannot receive authorization to become a collecting society until it meets transparency requirements.  MCSN seems to think there it is actually some sort of NCC vendetta that is preventing MCSN from receiving authorization.  Both parties claim to be acting in the best interests of copyright and the artists.  Maybe some readers can shed some light on the situation.

One thing is clear, whatever is going on here, it's not doing anybody any good, especially not the artists.


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