Stakeholders charge AVRS to justify existence as a collective management organisation
This was the position at the maiden stakeholders-users forum organised by the Mahmood Ali-Balogun-led board of the AVRS held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos.
Every speaker at the well attended event that attracted big names in the motion picture business, industry regulator like the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), banks and other financial institutions officials, lawyers and captains of industry, emphasised the need for AVRS to set in motion the machinery for rights collection and administration considering the massive transformation and expansion that the audiovisual landscape has witnessed in the last two decades.
Most of the speakers stressed the need for a proper interrogation of what the future holds for practitioners, especially with the emerging models that are redefining the value chain in commercialisation and exploitation of creative content.
Director General of the NCC, John Asein, who presented the keynote, challenged AVRS to evolve strategies to manage the impact of the growth in digital technologies that has ushered in a new wave of service, which has seen content consumption rise exponentially.
While calling on content users to cooperate with AVRS in ensuring that licensing is conducted in the most business-friendly manner, the NCC boss canvassed a situation where the society is seen as discharging its function in a way that justifies its existence as a collective management organisation.
In his words, “as long as it is acknowledged that creative contents are vital inputs to the operations of certain businesses, licensing of such content is no longer debatable, but rather a case of ascertaining what the appropriate licensing rates and tariffs should be.”
Asein, while acknowledging that his participation at the forum was his first interface with critical stakeholders in the copyright industry since his appointment three months ago, expressed the commissions willingness to assist parties with difficulties in reaching an amicable conclusion of such licensing deals through alterative dispute resolution.
Earlier, Asein hinted that the commission was planning to review current CMO’s framework of operations.. According to him, the review’s essence is to update the regulations as well as close gaps observed in the 11 years operation of current regulations.
The DG also said that the commission would in the coming years rededicate itself to promoting greater transparency and accountability in CMO operations.
According to him, “renewal of licences will be performance driven, and therefore, clear evidence of having posted positive results and compliance with laid down guidelines of operations is given more attention in the renewal process.”
Chairman of the forum and former DG of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Emeka Mba, said the event couldn’t have come at a better time, as there is an urgent need to deconstruct and reconstruct Nollwood in a way that it would provide value to industry practitioners.
Mba, who is credited with spearheading the resolution of decade-long feud between broadcasters and Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) over collection of music royalties, was unequivocal in his submission that industry guilds and associations have largely failed to design an engagement strategy with agreed deliverables that the NCC and other agencies could be measured by.
He charged AVRS to rise to the occasion and act in the overall industry interest. Said Mba: “The AVRS should be the last man standing; the industry insurance vehicle to ensure that a measurable portion of the value created by Nollywood comes back to the industry for practitioners’ benefit. But to effectively play this role, it must conduct an audit of what is collectible based on the applicability of the law establishing it and this must be broken down sector by sector.”
Also, Mba advised the society to be prepared to deal with the explosion of digital services exploiting Nollywood. He said, “the second thing is to grow its own capacity to collect its fair share of the measure value, third is to design instruments for collection, in concert with local and international experts and sister agencies and the fourth is to grow the membership base rapidly and improve collective negotiation strategies to improve industry bargaining power.”
Earlier in his welcome address, chairman of AVRS, Mahmood Ali-Balogun, said the forum offered the Board and its members, as well as users, rare opportunity to do a critical appraisal of the society.
Ali-Balogun noted that while the society may have recorded some progress in the areas of enlightenment, membership data analysis, capacity building for staff and management and strategic partnership building processes, it is still many steps behind, given that the CMO was licensed near five years ago and yet they are still far off licensing and distribution of royalties, which as he stressed ‘are the two fundamental purposes for which AVRS was established and approved as a CMO’.
The chairman also said, “global developments in the intellectual property management sector in the past few years, point to the fact that the world has become more amenable to the importance of copyright protection and AVRS ought to have become a regional leader setting examples for others, considering the size of Nollywood and its strong reckoning in the international audiovisual market.”
While commending the understanding and spirit of cooperation shown by users of audiovisual content by obtaining AVRS licence, Ali-Balogun, who was recently given a fresh mandate, urged users who are still trying to obtain their licence to do so. In his words, “in the past few years, there have been landmark judicial pronouncements that have become benchmarks for judgment on matters of right usage. We hope that we will not be constrained to engage at that level which is why the only option open to a user of audio visual content in which copyright subsist, is to comply with extant laws and regulations.”
Other speakers including, Obi Asika, Don Pedro Obaseki and Chief Tony Okoroji who took turns after the address by Ali-Balogun to comment, reiterated the fact that the growth of digital technologies has ushered in a new wave of services, which has seen content consumption rise exponentially.
Therefore, the speakers were unequivocal in their submissions that AVRS must rise up to the occasion especially if the overall goal is, the growth in content consumption should ordinarily translate into more earning for the industry and practitioners.