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War on piracy: ‘If we can’t beat them, we’ll integrate them’

Having failed to contain the Alaba boys, the Copy Rights Commission (NCC) seems to be adopting the popular cliché ‘if you can’t beat them, join…

Having failed to contain the Alaba boys, the Copy Rights Commission (NCC) seems to be adopting the popular cliché ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ but this time, with a slight modification, ‘if we can’t beat them, we will integrate them,’

The Director General Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC), Adebambo Adewopo, told Sunday Trust in Lagos how handicapped the Commission is on this war and says, going forward, the Commission will have to integrate the Alaba boys because the entire distribution network is in their hands.

“We have tried to convert the pirates to legitimate business for the reason that they have captured all the means of distribution,” he said.

The Alaba boys who rake in millions of naira in intellectual property abuse, particularly music and videos, have seized entirely the distribution channel of music and videos in Nigeria thus, leaving artistes at their mercy.

At Alaba Market, millions of audio and video CDs and tapes are churned out daily without copyright permission. While the artistes wallow in deprivation, the pirates live luxurious life styles.

Unconfirmed reports have it that sometimes; artistes out of fear willingly strike a deal with the Alaba boys to pirate their materials for a small percent of the profit instead of losing out completely.

Mr. Adewopo said there is not much his commission could do as it is a regulatory body. “The distribution of legitimate products has collapsed and the collapse is an industry affair not regulatory,” he said. “The commission is empowered to regulate production but distribution is entirely a private matter. So you need to build a structure of distribution,” he added.  

Where it went wrong

The problem, he explained started with collapse of the cinema culture. “Abroad, when you produce a movie, it doesn’t go the market straight, it goes to the cinemas and the cinema industry has relatively collapsed here. So you need to build the structures that support intellectual property rights owners and that starts with distribution. It also involves the collaboration between the public and private sector.”

Getting it right

The Commission’s effort to fight piracy, he said, it will be a three pronged approach – technology, regulation and contract.  

“IT can help; just the same way IT provides the platform for piracy to thrive. Of course, you know what IT has provided in terms of asset, volume, speed and the scope of dissemination, almost instantaneous but it can also help through circumvention mechanism. We also have the enforcement of the law and the commission is committed to it. Thirdly, basic contractual transactions between the parties can also work. Effective combination of technology, law and contract can help.”

On the Musical Copyright Society

On the yet to be resolved squabble between him and the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN) as to who collects royalties on music and videos used on TV, radio, and in public places like hotels, air craft’s, commercial buses etc.

MCSN led by Charlyboy or Charles Oputa had protested the licensing of Copy Right Society of Nigeria (COSON) as a sole royalties collecting agent in Nigeria, but MCSN, having lost out, described the whole process as a charade and the process that produce COSON as less than transparent.

“Everybody wants to collect royalties, but royalties collection is not a business enterprise, it’s not done anywhere in the world. Royalty collection is a trust fund. Every user of copyright materials pays into a common purse.

“We have the responsibility to regulate, government does not collect royalties. We only license an agency to collect and we have license the Copy Right Society of Nigeria (COSON) to collect.

“They (MCSN) are making noise because their own group wasn’t approved. But they simply lack the capacity and mental tenacity to articulate issues,” he said.

“The money belongs to creators; the Society only takes 30 percent for administration. Maybe MCSN wants to collect the monies and spend but what happen to those who have rights to the money. When they ask, what would we say?” he concluded.

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