Outside the Alagbon, Ikoyi Office of the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board was an appalling sight. To those who visit the premises regularly, it is nothing new. Multiple DVD copiers, writable DVDs containing movies and television series produced by Nigerian movie makers were displayed infront of the building where a gathering of stakeholders was held. The large turnout was quite overwhelming; a roll call of actors, producers, film makers and cinema owners.
Some of them had walked past the copies of their original works peddled by profiteers who are unlicensed and unauthorized to copy and distribute the works. There is a section of stakeholders who have thrown in the trowel in this fight against piracy. And they have good reasons for this. The network of perpetrators are more defined and structured than the legal distributors’. Also, the criminals have become very formidable; issuing receipts for illegal sales and mostly in possession of firearms and weapons to counter any effort at preventing them from this cycle of impunity.
The content producers are incapacitated without support from relevant authorities. But this has changed since the inauguration of a task force for the creative sector initiated by the Minister of Information, Alh. Lai Mohammed and the Nigeria Police. Last week, the media witnessed the first in the series of successful raids of unlicensed film distribution sites.
Adedayo Thomas, the Executive Director, NFVCB, took journalists outside the building, revealing the outcome of the recent raid where perpetrators are still at large.
â€œWe have their office address, phone numbers and location. On our final raid, we found these package, ready for exports. None of these bags can be carried by one person. We have 103 of these bags alone. Here we have Jenifa’s Diary, The Wedding Party with different covers and titles. There are 10 different films in one CD, dubbed in several thousand copiesâ€, he disclosed.
This trend is a matter of serious concern to content producers who also labour to pay for television slots, advertise, recruit workers and distribute their works. The comedienne and producer, Funke Akindele, expressed sadness upon seeing her works in pirated format. She argued that large of distribution network may not necessarily be the reason for the growth of piracy in the creative industry.
â€œPiracy has been here for long. I remember when I used to produce Yoruba movies, and Olasco Films would distribute several copies, in thousands, sometimes millions, the pirates are still there. Once you release a movie today, it is pirated. These culprits should be prosecuted and questions have to be answered because people believe that these perpetrators have backbones who are fuelling them. I donâ€™t want to talk about that,â€ she said.
Another activist in the fight against piracy of creative works, distributor and producer, Gabriel Okoye, popularly referred to as Igwe Gabosky, revealed that the crime of pirating movies has been enabled by modern technology.
â€œWhat we have here is not up to 0.1percent of pirated copies done in Nigeria. There is a chip that is now used in scanning the web so that even if you stay in your house and use your PC to watch an original film, it will automatically record your content.
â€œThe owner of the work may have only released 5000copies but the pirates will make millions to sell across Africa. All the landlords where these fake works have been retrieved need to be probedâ€, he said.
Meanwhile, Nigeria is a member of international organizations where the distribution of films and other intellectual works are sought to be protected. In fact, an amendment to the National Film and Video Censors Board Act has been passed to law. Under this legal provision, a perpetrator found guilty is liable to a three-year prison sentence.