Filed in Entertainment by on July 28, 2010

Royalty: Between fame and financial reward 
By Juliet Bumah
Tuesday, 27 Jul 2010

There is nothing as frustrating as tilling the ground and nurturing it only for another to make away with the harvest. For years, that seemed to be the lot of artistes in Nigeria. After working assiduously to release their works, pirates hijack them and smile to the banks while the intellectual property owners starve. The artistes also get no royalty from broadcast stations which use their works on the air waves to entertain listeners. Individually and as groups, stakeholders in the entertainment industry in Nigeria have battled the forces that threaten their existence all to no avail.

So, the news that the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, has directed broadcast stations, especially the ones owned by the Federal Government, to start paying royalties on works used by the stations is a welcome one.

As part of efforts towards eradicating piracy, regulatory agencies consisting of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the National Broadcasting Commission, the Nigerian Film Commission, and the National Film and Video Censors Board had come together to form a coalition known as the Creative Industries Regulatory Agencies.

At a meeting with CIRA recently, Akunyili who noted that the platform would go a long way in checking the high incidence of piracy in Nigeria directed all broadcast stations operating in the country to ensure that royalty was paid on music played by their stations to the approved collecting society.

”Copyright Society of Nigeria is the registered private concern approved by government to be collecting royalty on music played in broadcasting outfits to be given eventually to local artistes. So we are pleading with all broadcasting centres to ensure that they pay this royalty to Copyright Society of Nigeria so that we can encourage our local artistes to work harder.

”The public sector will set the ball rolling. I am going to have a meeting with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria and the Nigerian Television Authority so that we can work out modalities through which we can show good example to the private sector,” she said.

The minister noted that piracy had brought untold hardship on the creative industry in Nigeria.

”Piracy has destroyed our creativity. Piracy has discouraged our highly talented artistes. Piracy has not allowed great men and women to reap the benefits of their talents, their labour, and their sweat. Coming together to say no to this is our collective responsibility. It is our responsibility to make sure that regulation is sound so that this aspect of the economy will move forward.

”As President Goodluck Jonathan has always stressed, we need to diversify. Our creative industry can actually be a major foreign exchange earner if we are able to deal with piracy and dealing with piracy will have a boost when four of you come together as you have done to say ‘we are ready.’ Fighting piracy in Nigeria will boost the image of the country in the outside world,” she said at the meeting.

Reacting to the news, multiple awards winning Nigerian artiste, Darey Art Alade, described it as a laudable development.

”In my humble opinion, I strongly believe that this is a welcome development. If Prof. Dora Akunyili will fight this just cause as she fought counterfeit drug manufacturers, traders, etc with all her might, presidential support, armed forces et al, then this is a laudable development. And it is not just the minister alone that has this responsibility. The copyright commission, rights owners, record labels, pressure groups and government at all levels must all realise that it‘s to everyone‘s benefit to ensure that creators get royalties and other mechanical rights.

“We have long suffered in silence and there is no better time than now. It also seems like the Federal Government may have now realised the huge potential in earnings for our economy through music, entertainment and generally speaking, creativity. There are still an approximate 40m unemployed youths. We must engage them somehow. Piracy has to end now!” he said.

Afrojuju creator, Sir Shina Peter, feels that it is the right path for the government to tread but is worried about those that will represent the artistes‘ interest. ”It is a good gesture from the government, but they should be very vigilant not to give the right to the wrong hands,” he replied to a question via sms.

For Illbliss whose songs are enjoying good air play presently, the development will mark a revolution in the industry if fully implemented. ”Royalties for intellectual properties would open up a totally new income stream for artistes who have had to rely on CD (compact disc) sales and shows for remuneration. It marks a revolution in our industry and I hope this is fully implemented. It also cuts down the percentage of substandard materials on radio and TV.

While many Nigerians laud the present administration for taking this bold step in addressing this problem, some are still sceptical of its success.

This is based on the fact that some artistes, hungry for success, go to any extent to ensure that they are accepted or that their songs are promoted on air. In their bid to break into the industry, many of them go begging radio stations and DJs to play their tracks on air. Apart from giving out their CDs and VCDs for free, some of them even have to bribe to gain necessary audience as good airplay boosts sales, they believe.

While this development may boost the pocket of established ones, the upcoming artiste whose sole dream for the present is for his music to be heard and seen on radio and television respectively, may not bother about royalty for now. With eyes on endorsement, it won‘t be long before they will enter into special arrangement with these stations. At the end of it all, some of these artistes may sign off their rights in their bid to get airtime on radio and television.


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