A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has put an end to Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON)’s “General Distribution” practice. General Distribution, as was COSON’s practice, involved in principle, the distribution of the same amount of music royalties (usually about Thirty Thousand Naira) to each of the thousands of members of the organization yearly. This was without regard to the size of music catalogues owned or controlled, or the usage of works.
Music Publishers’ Association of Nigeria (MPAN) is the single largest body of owners of copyright in musical works in Nigeria, and is made up of owners of interests in local and international copyright catalogues comprising tens of thousands of musical works. Members of MPAN successfully challenged the practice in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/1418/2019; Green Light Music Publishing Ltd, Chocolate City Music Ltd, Premier Music Publishing Company Ltd v. Copyright Society of Nigeria Ltd/Gte.
In delivering judgment on the 25th day of November, 2020, Honourable Justice Oguntoyinbo declared the practice illegal, and also ordered COSON to stop further distribution of royalties, “in a manner known as ‘General Distribution’ or how so ever called, which does not reflect the usage of works…”
Commenting on this very important development for the Nigerian music industry, Mr. Olumide Mustapha, counsel to the plaintiffs, and chair of MPAN, said,
“This decision will make more money available for increased (Specific) royalty distribution to deserving COSON members. It also represents part of the important things that had to happen to encourage an inflow of local and foreign investments into the Nigerian music industry, without which the true financial potentials of the industry could not be realized and the careers, dreams and sustainable welfare of the Nigerian musician could not be provided for”
Ms Ibukun Abidoye, Executive Vice President at Chocolate City and a witness in the lawsuit, also noted that,
“General Distribution was neither sustainable nor truly helpful to the music industry. MPAN rather supports using the COSON Music Foundation for verified welfare needs of musicians, and as provided for in the COSON Memorandum and Articles of Association. It’s a really good thing that General Distribution is now a thing of the past”