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Film: Pirates Bite Hard Despite Presidential Directive


NCC boss, Afam Ezekude

NCC boss, Afam Ezekude

Last week, filmmaker Kunle Afolayan forwarded an email to some stakeholders of a picture of a large consignment of pirated copies of his latest film October 1 that was sent to him by an unnamed source.

The short message that accompanied the picture indicated that the consignment (container filled with pirated movies) was being prepared to be shipped abroad by a pirate.

Although the exact location the photograph was taken was not indicated, there was a container filled with the DVDs, which suggested that the movie was being crated to be sent abroad.

It was an enraged Kunle Afolayan who called to express how disappointed he was that government, as its agencies were yet to find a solution to the menace called piracy.

He wondered why, despite a recent Presidential directive, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and other agencies of government, including the police, have looked elsewhere while the pirates operate with impunity.

He lamented, “This is disheartening. I am sick and tired of this country. I thought the President has declared war on Pirates? How can you be working for others to sit down and eat? This is not acceptable.

Why do we have a government if it cannot protect our intellectual property and create the right environment for us to work and earn money legitimately? This is bullshit.

But I thought President Buhari has directed them to fight piracy? What are they waiting for?’’ He also wondered if the Presidential charge was not one of those promises that were usually not backed with action, adding, ‘’You know, sometimes these people make promises just to make us clap for them.

I don’t think he meant it when he handed out that directive. If not we would have seen NCC and the relevant agencies take action”. Afolayan has since commenced work on his next movie The CEO.



However, contrary to Afolayan’s outburst, President Muhammadu Buhari meant business when he directed all the regulatory and security agencies connected to the battle against intellectual property theft to step up their efforts to curb the menace of pirates, which, as the President acknowledged, has made it impossible for artistes in Nigeria’s vibrant entertainment industry ‘to enjoy the fruit of their labour’.

President Buhari handed out the directive after receiving a briefing from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan a few weeks ago in Abuja.

President Buhari was quoted as saying that the security agencies must work with practitioners of the industry to combat the menace. The President charged law enforcement agencies to identify the perpetrators of copyright piracy, their sponsors and collaborators, and bring them to justice. Buhari had said, “Nollywood is making progress.

We should work with them. Unless they are backed, pirates who want to reap where they have not sowed will ruin them. They have built an industry with their own sweat.

It is therefore incumbent on us to give them the necessary support’’. There was palpable excitement in the entertainment industry following that pronouncement by President Buhari.

But that excitement seemed to have waned with the impunity pirates have been operating even with the presidential declaration. Practitioners think that the President should go beyond handing out a mere directive.

They want the President to declare a state of emergency on the entertainment industry as it concerns piracy. ‘‘It has gotten to that stage,’’ notable filmmaker Francis Onwochei said during the week. ‘’The issue of piracy has become the singular most potent bane of our industry and the earlier the government takes a bold step the better for the industry and the better the economy of the country’’.

The filmmaker, who has attended several forums where solutions have been proffered on how to tackle piracy, said piracy has continued to “bug the industry because government and its relevant agencies have failed to implement some of the practical steps that have been proffered. In my opinion, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) has not fulfilled its assigned role to check constant and flagrant reports of abuses. “I personally had a case of such with one of my films and it was frustration from the lack of desire of the agency to even contact the reported abuser that totally put me off.

But the fight has even gone beyond them which is why I hold the view that a special anti-piracy section be created in the Nigeria Police Force and it should be charged directly with responsibility of working with NCC to checkmate piracy of all works’’.

MANAGING Director of Filmhouse Cinemas and Filmone Distribution Kene Mkparu shares Onwochei’s sentiments. Though the Filmhouse boss acknowledged that piracy is not a very easy menace to deal with, Mkparu is of the view that a whole bunch of multifaceted efforts need to be working together in a film’s lifespan to curb piracy.

First he advised producers to enforce more stringent film handling access levels to avoid several individuals handling the films at multiple locations for post-production.

Similarly, he advised filmmakers to digitally mark screening copies they send to festivals, awards and their prospective sponsors and to also insist that they hand copies of their films to distributors with digital capability to mark each copy of the films shown in cinema.

That way they can identify the source of any piracy from cinema,” he said, adding that digital technology has provided cinemas a great means of curtailing piracy from cinema sources. ‘’Cinemas also need to ensure strong company-level discipline amongst their staff to prevent in-house association with pirates,’’ he said.



Indeed for Mkparu, government has a major role to play in the fight against Piracy. He noted that pirates feel they can get away with piracy crimes when the appropriate government institutions are not performing. He said, ‘’The last time I saw even advertisements from the NFVCB against piracy was years ago.

It is great one arm of government supporting the industry by providing fantastic enabling environment and resources, but it makes a mockery of this enablement when other parts are not doing their bit.

Cinemas in Lagos State, for instance, pay double taxation in premises license to both National Censors Board and State Censors Board. Sadly, I have never seen anyone fighting our cause to address piracy’’.

Foremost film distributor Uwem Jacobs likened piracy to cancer. He described the menace as a global problem, which he said could not be completely eliminated, saying that like cancer, piracy could only be managed.

He said, “With regard to the film industry, the probability of any movie being pirated is quite high. You just cannot rule out piracy, especially if the movie has a very high market demand.

Unfortunately, while there are people who do not appreciate cinematic entertainment, we also have a large number of non-cinema consumers who do not know the difference between original and pirated movies.

I believe that an effective multilevel marketing (distribution) strategy will help manage piracy’’. Jacobs recommend the mass production of CD’s and DVDs, offering better incentives to street hawkers and direct marketers as well as selling the original copies below the price of the pirated copies, as ways out of piracy challenge.

Mkparu agrees with Jacobs but adds that the public and the media have roles to play in the fight against the scourge. According to Mkparu, ‘’The public is one I want to address most.

Who buys and downloads these pirated films? Who robs the film producers of the rewards of their labour? It’s the public and not just the pirates.

Who really is the mastermind of piracy corruption and stealing in Nigeria? The public. It’s the public – yes, you and me!. This is about the only crime where the major perpetrator is not held legally accountable for the crime’’.

From Mkparu, Jacobs and most stakeholders think that the government will take decisive steps if relevant stakeholders educate and pressurise government on strategic issues that affect the industry like piracy. “I think the government at both state and federal levels want to assist the industry but they don’t often have first-hand, correct information and knowledge of what filmmakers go through. So, filmmakers should spend more time lobbying high level government officials to wade in directly to solve this problem’’.

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