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Tony Okoroji, Chairman, COSON
Since the inception of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), it has constituted a bone in the neck of copyright abusers under whatever guise, taking them out through legal suits. In a bid to further broaden the horizon of engaging both legitimate users and violators of Intellectual Property in the country, COSON under the chairmanship of Tony Okoroji has for some years been spearheading “No Music Day”, a day set aside every year to draw attention to the essence of recognising the importance and value of music in the scheme of human endeavour, as well as realising that the music and sound recordings many companies deploy to drive their businesses ought to be commensurately remunerated. On the occasion today, September 1, 2020, Tony Okoroji talks to www.beats-onit.com about its essence and more.
For some years now, ‘No Music Day’ has been observed in Nigeria being spare headed by COSON and a coalition of creative groups across the country. What dividends has this achieved for musicians and owners of sound recordings?
No Music Day has helped significantly to draw attention in Nigeria to the evil of piracy, especially digital and broadcast piracy. The first time we asked broadcasting stations in Nigeria not to play music for a significant part of the day, there was an uproar. A lot of the stations did not know how to handle it. It brought home the fact that the music which they had hitherto treated with disdain is a critical factor in their operation and that the music belongs to some people who have the right to demand that it not be played. No Music Day has become so popular that plans are underway to make it a Pan African event.
When it comes to use of music for commercial ends, broadcast outfits, hotels, night clubs airlines and telecoms companies readily come to mind. What level of cooperation have they offered in terms of complying with the dictates of No Music Day yearly?
It is work in progress. You have to be passionate about the work we do and remain committed to it, year after year. It is a marathon and not a dash. Very few organisations in Nigeria go to court as regularly as COSON does. I am in court practically every week. Many times, it becomes obvious that moral suasion is not enough and that people have to face consequences for the infringement of Intellectual Property rights. We are everywhere with each of the groups of users of music you have mentioned. COSON is unrelenting. No Music Day is just one of the tools we deploy.
Given what comes across as nonchalance on the part of many musicians as observed by keen followers of the industry, would you not say that more enlightenment and sensitisation need to be extended to a lot of Nigerian artistes on the essence of the day?
Anti-piracy work is not glamourous work. It is not attractive. It is not a show or a concert that the average artiste revels in. It is even dangerous work and you make a lot of enemies but it is work that needs to be done for the survival of the industry and some of us have committed ourselves to doing it. What you describe as nonchalance may be fear. I get the impression that we get reasonable support. It is just that everybody cannot be in the line of fire. Enlightenment and sensitisation must continue. They are critical.
As someone who has made personal sacrifices to ensure the rights and privileges of Intellectual Property (IP) owners in the country, what are your prayers for future of the administration, management, protection and projection of this vital aspect of human endeavour in Nigeria?
I have often said that no great nation in human history has been built by cowards. Nigeria will not be an exception. I worry about the growing emphasis on instant gratification and quick money in our country. I am constantly looking for young people with the passion for the work we do so that we can train them and pass the torch. Knowledge is power and those who must administer copyright in the digital age must be very well trained, they must be knowledgeable as the language continues to change every day.
After all these years of observing No Music Day, is there any plan to make it obligatory for the relevant bodies commercially exploiting music and sound recording to compulsorily desist from playing music on that day or face legal sanctions?
I promise you that along the road, we will deploy the different tools in our toolbox. And there are several tools available to us.
What message do you have for both artistes and music users on this day?
Everybody needs to know that the world is changing. Economies around the world are being built on Intellectual Property. The knowledge economy is here. One of the big lessons of the Coronavirus pandemic is that our nation’s almost total dependence on oil revenue is very dangerous. For several months, nobody wanted to buy Nigerian oil because nobody needed it. At some point we were almost forced to pay people to take our oil because of storage challenges. The situation may have eased a little, but with the huge development in alternative energy supply, the problem hovers over us.
Everywhere you go, the ingenuity of the Nigerian people continues to be on display. Our music, movies, literature, fashion, programming, and similar products of the creative endeavour are in substantial demand across the world. In the creative industry, Nigeria has significant comparative advantage. We are only asking for people who have the vision, the passion and the understanding of the new world to be in the right positions to spark the fire and change the national narrative. That is the key message of No Music Day.