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Unending War Against Piracy

By Shaibu Husseini
03 May 2015   |   6:10 am
It was not the first time that entertainers will take to the streets to call attention to the incessant cases of piracy in the entertainment industry.

Gabosky Speaking, Behind is Kunle Afolayan

It was not the first time that entertainers will take to the streets to call attention to the incessant cases of piracy in the entertainment industry.

They have been at it since 1988. In fact it is one of such agitations that got the government of President Ibrahim Babaginda to approve the formal establishment of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) with the promulgation of decree 47 of 1988.

The formal establishment of the NCC, an agency that was set up to protect the rights of creative people and to ensure a virile copyright regime by faithfully implementing the provisions of the copyright laws that border on intellectual property theft meant that the government having heard their cries, wanted the artistes to just face their job of creation while the job of policing the environment will be that of NCC.

That was the intention really. But that is not the case and has never been the case with copyright administration in Nigeria. The artistes have continued to take to the streets in protest even with the formation of the NCC. ‘

’The situation is so bad now that they don’t wait for us to release the movies. The pirate, mass produce and sell on the streets even, while the movie is still having its cinema runs’’ lamented foremost filmmaker Tunde Kelani, who has lost several millions in naira to the activities of pirates.

In fact the last time pirates feasted on his movie ‘Maami’, Kelani was so distraught that he declared that he was going to take the citizenship of another country and that he was going to discourage his children and wards from taking up a career in filmmaking.

‘I mean since it is clear that government was not ready to create the enabling environment for filmmakers to do business, the best thing is to go where your creativity will be appreciated.

How can you work for others to eat? Filmmaking in Nigeria has become almost like fetching water with basket. I wont encourage anyone or any of my children to go into filmmaking’ he said.

Well TK as Kelani is simply called has not relocated. He is still around and has produced another movie ‘Dazzling Mirage’ since the last experience. Sources say the leading filmmaker may have been prevailed upon by his younger colleagues to stay and join in the efforts to drum up support for a more decisive action to be taken on the piracy situation in Nigeria.

No wonder then that Kelani was right there in front on Monday when entertainers took to the streets to protest against the disturbing case of piracy in Nigeria and to demand stiffer penalties against piracy and other forms of intellectual theft presently ravaging the country.

With placards bearing inscriptions like: “save our business from piracy; ‘Piracy is affecting our growth, Kill IT’; ‘Do not patronize pirates and others’’, the artistes including notable actors and actresses like Bayo Salami, Yemi Sodimu, StephNora Okere, Jide Kosoko, Kunle Afolayan, Iyabo Ojo, Tunde Kelani marched from Oba Akran Avenue in the Ikeja area of Lagos to the office of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola with a brief stop at the Lagos State House of Assembly.

What was unique about this trek was that as the artistes marched and chanted, they ran into hawkers on the streets who displayed copies of pirated films including Kunle Afolayan’s ‘October 1’, ‘Phone Swap’ and Kelani’s Maami.

They pounced on each hawker they ran into and seized the copies of pirated films from them. Copies of the movies they seized were presented to Governor Fashola when they finally met him. And top on the list of their demands before the governor was the call for stiffer penalties against piracy and other forms of intellectual theft. Kelani, clearly the leader of the trek, was first to speak.

He lamented the perennial threats piracy poses to their profession. Kelani told the governor that piracy has become a major albatross to the growth of the movie industry as it-discouraged investments in filmmaking and has clearly undermined creativity.

‘’Your Excellency, before now these pirates wait until we finish releasing our films. But now they release our films before we authorize the release. Your Excellency, this trend had gotten to a dangerous dimension requiring a quick check’’ Kelani said. He also canvassed the elevation of piracy to the level of economic crime and arm robbery.

‘Films produced in Nigeria, still showing in the cinemas, are pirated and released, sold on the streets of Lagos before official release by the investors. This is destroying lives, property, business and the industry as a whole,” Kelani lamented.

When top filmmaker and distributor Igwe Gab Okoye aka Gabosky took his turn to speak on behalf of the entertainers, he spoke in the same vein. He remarked that the magnitude of piracy the country is witnessing now has assumed a dangerous dimension.

According to Igwe Gabosky ‘’sir, other countries in the world have stiffer penalties for piracy but our laws here are too week. There are some countries that even have death penalty when you are caught.

But the penalty here is week and has encouraged piracy than discourage them’’. Also, Gabosky pointed to the popular Alaba Market in Lagos as the biggest headache for the entertainment industry.

He alleged that the National Copyright Commission – and other investors in the intellectual property in Nigeria have found ‘Alaba a difficult nut to crack’. He also alleged that apart from the fact that many dealers in the market have continued to illegally reproduce the works of Nigerian and foreign artistes, they have also consistently resisted attempts by men of the NCC to bring sanity into the creative industry.

‘’As far as I am concerned, all the government institution responsible for creating a better environment for us from the NCC to the Censors Board to the moribund Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) have failed’’ Gabosky alleged. Also, one of the leaders of the group Barrister Tunji Bamishigbin lamented the situation and called for stiffer legislation.

“The existing legislation against the problem is too weak to serve as deterrent. We must strengthen the law and enforce the penalty’ Bamishigbin who is a prolific writer and filmmaker said.

Governor Fashola was very consoling in his response. The governor who described the industry as a self-driven one promised that the state government with collaborate with the entertainers in the fight against piracy.

The governor, who canvassed a holistic approach to the fight against piracy, saluted the courage of the entertainers and commended them for electing to tackle the menace.

Although he described piracy as a global phenomenon that even some developing countries are battling to curtail, he decried the inability of the Nigerian government to take steps that would have curtailed the menace. ‘Please don’t despair. Let us continue the struggle and keep creating the awareness.

Let us get more of you involved in the struggle. I see a few faces here and they are mostly moviemakers. Where are the writers, where are the fine artists? You should all be involved. So count on me to help in any way possible. I will expect to meet your representatives soon so that we can articulate our positions and see what can be done’ the governor said.

The group dispersed after the visit to the governor. But leaders of the group agreed to meet with the governor so as to articulate a position to government. They also promised to convene an all-encompassing awareness rally to further press home their demand for a virile copyright regime. ‘Expect a one million creative man march against piracy’’ Bamishigbin promised.