FILM:Taking Collective Rights Management Enlightenment Up North


Cross section of stakeholders at the meeting in Kano

If the Audio Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS) has not started collecting residual royalties or started slamming defaulters with lawsuits that run into billions as their counterparts in the music arm – the Collecting Society of Nigeria (COSON) has been doing, it is not for lack of will or readiness to do so.

They are set to commence full operations, but only that the leadership is yet to carry out an extensive enlightenment campaign so as to establish a cordial working relationship with various stakeholders in the motion picture industry.

To this end, the body has been on the road for enlightenment tours from the moment of licensing by Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to operate as Nigeria’s sole approved collective management organization for cinematograph films. So far, the body has taken its enlightenment campaign tours to Asaba, Lagos and Benin City. Plans are afoot to take the series further to the South-South, South West and North Central.

But last week, the AVRS train was in Kano and Abuja. If the massive participation of film industry practitioners in the stakeholders’ meetings it is organising is anything to go by, then the campaign for respect for intellectual property in Nigeria could very well have assumed a more serious dimension nationwide.

Perhaps, the widely reported success stories of earlier events, may have re-energized the interest of Kano-based filmmakers who turned out in their numbers to attend the forum at Ni’ima Guest Palace Conference Centre, Old GRA, Kano, where the event was hosted.

Frontline filmmaker and chairman of AVRS, Mahmood Ali-Balogun opened the session by remarking that the power of any film medium is largely based on its outreach and underscored his recognition of the wide viewership of Hausa films across West and East Africa in particular, which obviously influenced DSTV to open AfricaMagic Hausa as a dedicated channel.

He commend the industrious spirit of Kano-based filmmakers, particularly for their consistency in making films in an indigenous African language, and enjoined them to formalize their membership of AVRS in order to enjoy the benefits of residual income guaranteed by annual payment of royalties.

Kano State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry who is also a notable stakeholder and president of MOPPAN, Kano State, Professor Umar F. Jibril, commended the Federal Government for the approval of AVRS which he described as the best thing to happen to Nigeria’s film industry since independence.

In his words, “The Nigerian film industry has grown through various stages since our political independence in 1960, and this includes various levels of public exploitation of our creativity.

Having endured this wanton exploitation for decades, while watching our counterparts in other parts of the world benefit from royalties paid on their copyright works, it was a heart-warming development when the news of the approval of AVRS by Nigerian Copyright Commission broke.

Make no mistake about it, nothing can boost national productivity from the angle of creative industries more than a reliable intellectual property protection system.”

Also speaking, the North-West Zonal Manager of Nigerian Copyright Commission, Alhaji Hassan Usman who represented the Director-General, Mr. Afam Ezekude, reiterated the commitment of NCC towards total eradication of intellectual property rights abuse in Nigeria.

He, however, called for patience, saying that the battle against piracy was being fought on various fronts with a gradual and painstaking approach for best results.

Directors of AVRS, Prince Jide Kosoko, Mr. Fidelis Duker and Dr. Ahmed Sarari who anchored the event, also called on their colleagues in Kano to show stronger commitment to the anti-piracy struggle by supporting AVRS in its bid to get commercial users of audio-visual works to pay for their usage.

The interactive session provided participants the opportunity to ask questions and address their concerns about membership, licensing, assignment of rights and the reliability of reciprocal agreements.

General Manager of AVRS, Ms. Eme Akiba-Eyo, a legal practitioner, joined the chairman and directors to respond to the issues raised, with detailed explanation of national and international legal frameworks of collective rights management.

The Abuja Forum, held at Merit House, Aguiyi-Ironsi Street, Maitama, was equally well attended by stakeholders and exhaustively in its interactions.

Anchored by popular Nollywood actor, Francis Duru, it provided an auspicious platform for filmmakers to engage AVRS officials including Mr. Andy Amenechi, as well as NCC officials present, on national response strategies against movie piracy.

Deputy Director of NCC, Mr. Mike Akpan, assured participants that NCC was adopting new measures in the fight against piracy.

Having successfully wrapped up its stakeholders’ enlightenment campaign in active movie production hubs across the country, with its numerical strength on the increase, AVRS chairman, Mr. Ali-Balogun while speaking with newsmen in Abuja, hinted that AVRS would focus more attention on commercial users of audio visual works in the weeks ahead, as it plans to commence with actual licensing activities in line with its approval mandate.

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