Sound n’ Screen:Nigeria Not Ripe For Creative Commons, Says Okoroji

Dan Maraya & Okoroji

Late Dan Maraya                          COSON Chairman, Okoroji

Seeks Immortalisation Of Dan Maraya Jos 

Contrary to suggestions in some quarters for Nigeria to adopt creative commons model in its copyright administration, Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Chief Tony Okoroji has kicked against such move at the moment. To him, adopting the model could deal a big blow on Nigeria’s already threatened creative industries.

Chief Okoroji, who made the assertion while reacting to key issues raised at the recently held workshop on Nigeria’s Digital Economy and the Copyright System: Challenges and Opportunities for Strategic Growth in the Information Age in Lagos, however, pleaded with the promoters of the model to tarry a while and join in the ongoing efforts to grow the country’s copyright culture.

Responding from far away Oslo, where he had gone to deliver a lecture at a program organised by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and Norwegian Copyright Development Association (NORCODE) for senior executives of copyright collective management organisations from different parts of the world, COSON Chairman stated that his reaction to the deliberations that went down in Lagos had become imperative due to his never ending passion for the development of the copyright culture in Nigeria. “

A sudden jump into the creative commons model at this point will send devastating mixed signals that would do significant harm to our creative industries. This is not the time,” he insisted.

He noted that with the advent of the digital era and the many challenges it presents, this is the time for all hands to be on deck to protect the rights of creative people in Nigeria and not create loopholes in a system that has begun to reward the hard work of creative Nigerians, after many years of wastage brought about by the blatant abuse of the nation’s intellectual property rights.

Okoroji, who noted that one important way in which right holders could earn money from the untracked exploitation of their works is through the Copyright Levy Scheme, also called on the government of President Buhari to see to the implementation of the scheme. “As the digital revolution evolves more and more, it is clear that the shape of the music industry is becoming remarkably different.

Rather than buy physical products like vinyl, music cassettes, CDs or DVDs, most consumers are obtaining and storing enormous amount of music on their cell phones, ipads, ipods, Mp3s, Mp4s, memory chips, memory sticks and similar digital devices.

A tiny amount of this is paid for. A lot is not paid for. The method of music distribution is also changing rapidly with the telephone companies and Internet aggregators providing the ‘pipes’ through which music moves from the producers to the consumers.”

He observed that the headquarters of music piracy in Nigeria might also have changed from the notorious Alaba Market to the Ikeja Computer Village, all in Lagos.

“In Computer Village and replicated in many Nigerian cities today, thousands of young men with laptops and without the authorisation of the owners of the works, are openly compiling the most popular songs in the market for a small fee, transferring these songs to mobile handsets, mp3s, mp4s, ipods, ipads, iphones or flash drives for whoever has money to pay!

The emergence of this kind of brazen digital piracy is a menace, which has resulted in the dwindling sales of physical music products like CDs and DVDs and putting hundreds of thousands of legitimate jobs at risk and driving away millions of dollars in badly needed investment.”

The Section 40 of the Copyright Act, according to Okoroji, provides for the Private Copy Levy scheme, which could however address some of the consequences of the menace if it is brought into force. “I do not think that anyone ever expected this kind of development.

The enforcement climate needed to deal with this is absent as the resources needed to attack this scourge which appears to be particularly Nigerian do not seem to be there.

Unfortunately, well over 23 years since the promulgation of the law, the unending protocol, red tape and bureaucracy in the Federal government system have made it impossible for the stakeholders to benefit from this important scheme which lubricates the creative industries in neighbouring nations such as Ghana and Burkina Faso.”

It would be recalled that the Nigerian music industry had called on the immediate past Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, to take charge and unshackle the private copy levy scheme, which has remained trapped in the Directorate of Fiscal Policy in her ministry for many months.

“The private copy levy scheme is intended to provide badly needed cushion for the stakeholders in the creative industry suffering from the unbridled copying and downloading of creative materials made possible by digital technology. Unfortunately, she did not address it until she left office.

“It is our hope that the new government of President Buhari which has indicated that it wants to release the creative potentials of the Nigerian people will without delay activate this scheme which will provide some succor not just for the music industry but also for the movie and literary industries. Rather than ‘dash’ money to the practitioners in the creative industries from government funds, the scheme will provide the platform for practitioners to earn their own income and further provide resources for the battle against piracy,” he said.

While thanking stakeholders who are committed to the defense and promotion of intellectual property rights in Nigeria, including the different Judges of the Federal High Court and the Justices of the Court of Appeal, Chief Okoroji said, “their correct interpretation of the law on collecting societies and repeatedly refusing to bow to those who want to stampede them to read the law upside down and prolong the suffering of the Nigerian creative community, has brought the industry thus far.”

Meanwhile, in his reaction to the death of veteran musician Dan Maraya Jos, Okoroj expressed profound sadness at the passing away of the iconic composer, instrumentalist and performer and called for his immortalisation. “For many years, I have had a special relationship with the great Dan Maraya Jos. I remain a fan of his, mystified by his stupendous talent. He was my friend in all seasons.

Throughout my tenure as president of PMAN up to my present period as Chairman of COSON, Dan Maraya was an unflinching supporter always urging me on.

The news of his death has left me numb. Dan Maraya was not just a great talent, but an incredibly polished gentleman, humble beyond belief. His yes was his yes and every word of his was a bond.” Recalling his last moment with the great musician at the COSON Extra Ordinary General Meeting at Lagos Airport Hotel in December 2014, Okoroji said, “he was hale, hearty and happy. After the meeting, I saw him to the car and we discussed my paying him a visit in Jos.

My previous visits to Jos had been very memorable as the great Dan Maraya would be my chauffer, driving me everywhere and making sure I did not lack anything.

Dr. Dan Maraya rarely came to Lagos without bringing me fresh fruits and fresh farm products from the plateau. We had a unique likeness for each other.

To Okoroji, Nigeria has lost a prodigious talent, who for many years held millions spellbound with a voice that caressed different octaves like that of a nightingale. “His simple one string instrument from which he created unique rhythms and melodies and the unforgettable lyrics of this incredibly gifted poet, will live in our hearts forever.

I hope that both the Federal Government and the Plateau State Government will take steps to immortalize this extraordinary Nigerian, who brought happiness to many across our nation.

Of course, there will be more musicians who will come and go; there will be more polished gentlemen who will come and go, but there will never be another Dan Maraya Jos,” he noted.

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