2nd Place Winner 2019 National Campus Essay Competition:
Asudemade Habeebullah A.

School: University of Ibadan

Question Addressed: Propose a solution to a compelling legal issue confronting the music or movie industry in Nigeria

If there is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian movie industry, then we need not look too far, it is piracy. And we would not have adequately engaged this discourse with regards to Nigeria without talking about Moses Olaiya – Baba Sala – a man who suffered a great deal from the hands of piracy. Baba Sala’s work “Orun Mooru” which by all standards was going to be a major sell-out had its success cut short by the sharp blades of piracy. All he did was to have made his works into small formats so it can be available for wider audience, little did he know what piracy had in stock for him. This tragic account not just led to a huge box-office loss, but also went as far as wrecking the man’s career. Several years down the lane, I ask, has anything changed?

Today, second to Bollywood, Nigerian movie industry remains the highest producer of movies in the world. Although several reports indicate that the Nigerian Film Industry is expected to make huge returns, piracy has ensured that the reality of this never sees the daylight. As soon as movies are released, pirates begin to make copies at unimaginably cheap prices which drastically beat down the patronization of the legitimate copies. The discord between total production cost and total gains affects the enthusiastic nature of both actors and producers, and leaves a tone of discouragement on further inputs into acting.

Notably, without a shred of doubt, piracy is a very serious crime within the purview of intellectual property law. The mere usurpation of a person’s intellectual work and commercially profiting off of it without permission from the owner readily spits in the face of the law. And by all means, needs to be speedily curbed. In doing this, there is a need to identify where the problem lies, as that would be a giant leap towards providing a tenable solution.

First off, pirates are not gods. They do not read the minds of owners of intellectual property and suddenly come up with the exact pirated work. Rather, they work hand in hand with the so called distributors to get original copies of these works and then reproduce. Thus, our first point of contact is regulating the chain of distribution – that is how the work is passed around. And quite interestingly, ours is a world aggressively embracing technology into our system, and as such we can leverage on technology to get this done. For this solution to work, the property owner instead of “just trusting” the integrity of these distributors would rather employ an e-system which assigns designated codes to each distributor who lays their hand on a copy of the work. Once a code is assigned to each distributor’s copy, a leak from any distributor along the chain of distribution would be automatically traced via the code, thereby making it effectively possible to tie the hands of distributors.

For any solution to however work, implementation of copyright laws needs to be taken more seriously. In Nigeria today, there are various laws protecting media owner’s intellectual property. And these laws are regulated by the Nigerian Copyright Commission. However, ever since pirates have been consistently breaking these laws, it is sad that very few people have been arrested or punished pursuant to these laws. So, here, it is clear that inadequate regulatory prospects of copyright laws have actually been a spur to the continuance of piracy. Thus, for any solution to be sustainable, there must a complementing implantation of laws which bring erring individuals to sound and assured justice.

In conclusion, the issue of piracy is not one that can suddenly be wiped out. No solution is a magic wand that would just cure the chronic disease of piracy from the body of the Nigerian film industry. However, we can actively work towards reducing the occurrences of piracy and the mitigation of its effects. And one key instrument that can help bring this forth is technology. Undoubtedly, Nollywood is really emerging in terms of quality filming; it would only be wise to quickly attack the one problem constantly plaguing it – piracy.

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