Nigerian Government Says Country Needs More Jail Time For Pirates And Control Over Content Of Creative Works

from the stupid-useful-pirates dept

The operating theory of incumbent industries is that piracy kills creativity. Try telling that to Nigeria.

From 2010:

The Economist has an article looking much more closely at the Nigerian movie industry, known as Nollywood, which produces an astounding 50 new movies every week. Now, some will immediately point out — correctly — that these are much lower budget than our traditional Hollywood picture, but apparently, many of the movies have pretty good plots and acting — and they seem to be doing pretty well across all of Africa (not just Nigeria). In fact, the report notes that the infringement may be a big part of why Nigerian films are so successful:

“The merchants curse the pirates, but in a way they are a blessing. Pirate gangs were probably Nollywood’s first exporters. They knew how to cross tricky borders and distribute goods across a disparate continent where vast tracts of land are inaccessible. Sometimes they filled empty bags with films when returning from an arms delivery. Often they used films to bribe bored guards at remote borders. The pirates created the pan-African market Mr Akudinobi now feeds.”


Prior to the proliferation of Nollywood films, at least one commentator suggested that government takeover of the film industry would be the only means by which Nigeria could develop a film industry.

Notably, although many countries have sought to incentivize particular types of film production through direct government funding, subsidies, or film protection schemas involving film quotas, many of these industries have not been commercially viable in the absence of subsidies or other support schemes. In contrast, Nollywood has created significant volume of local video film content with virtually no government involvement or subsidies. The success of Nollywood may in many respects be attributable to a lack of government involvement and its decentralized nature, which has permitted Nollywood participants to be highly entrepreneurial, adaptive and innovative. Nollywood now may employ as many as 200,000 people directly with estimates of indirect employment as high as 1 million. The market-driven Nollywood approach is less costly than existing models of film production and distribution and may offer a new model for developing countries that wish to develop domestic film industries.

Years of history suggest rampant piracy is directly linked to the rise of the Nigerian film industry, a.k.a. “Nollywood.” It’s now 2016 and government officials and anti-piracy task force heads are still trying to deliver the same “piracy is killing the Nigerian film industry” arguments.

In Nigeria today, piracy hits all sectors of copyright industry, but the worst hit is the entertainment industry, hence one of the greatest challenges facing the Nigerian entertainment industry is piracy, which has robbed the industry of billions of naira (Nwogu 2014). Kanayo (2013) as cited in Alakam (2014) is agitated by the fact that pirates are feeding fat literarily and figuratively on creative works at the expense of the proposed beneficiaries of the work.

The government has wormed its way deep into intellectual property protections, despite having nearly nothing to do with the rise of Nollywood. This isn’t a good thing. In the hands of the Nigerian government, the production of creative works is somehow tied to national security.

To show his support for the fight against piracy in Nigeria at the 28th annual international conference of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA), held in collaboration with the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), with the theme ‘Repositioning Nollywood for the Promotion of Nigeria’s Cultural Diplomacy & National Security,’ designed to explore the linkages between Nollywood and cultural diplomacy as a tool for addressing the current security challenges, President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to clampdown on piracy in Nollywood industry by empowering relevant agencies, even as he described it as an albatross to both practitioners and government.

The language barrier makes a mess of the metaphors, but it’s likely President Buhari is calling piracy an “albatross,” rather than the “clampdown.” Either way, he has — along with the country’s “Cultural Orientation” agency — connected piracy to “security challenges.” Worse, the government thinks it should be in the business of policing the creative works themselves.

Buhari regretted that excessive exposure to foreign films have led to moral decadence and the erosion of cultural values, especially among the youths, and expressed optimism that through the industry these lost cultural values would be restored.

So, not only does the government want to prop up the major players in the industry (who produce the smallest percentage of creative works), but it wants to make sure anything created lines up with its perception of itself. With this, Buhari can add censorship to the government’s anti-piracy efforts.

As for the efforts themselves, they appear to be limited to the stuff that hasn’t worked previously, but harder.

The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed described piracy as a ”monstrous disincentive” to the movie industry and indeed the entire arts and entertainment industry, suggesting that a longer jail term with no option of fine for convicted offenders and the establishment of a dedicated national task force on piracy could help curb the scourge.

That should make people “respect” copyright more. Put ’em in jail for violating ethereal rights. Or for contributing to terrorism. Or for making the government look bad. It’s all pretty much interchangeable as far as the government — and the backers of the government’s plan — are concerned. Stiffer penalties have done little to curb piracy elsewhere in the world and are frequently a PR nightmare when imposed. Piracy spread Nollywood’s influence throughout the world and allowed its films to be viewed by residents of other repressive nations whose governments have maintained local control of creative content.

The minority represented here is hoping to control not only the distribution, but the content, of future creative works. Piracy may be the talking point, but government expansion and increased protectionism are the ultimate goals.

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Comments on “Nigerian Government Says Country Needs More Jail Time For Pirates And Control Over Content Of Creative Works”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s not a scam. I just got an email telling me that they have a plan to completely end piracy in Nigeria. But to do it, they need me to forward a $2000 dollars to one of their anti-piracy agents, and then I’ll be paid the $2,000,000,000 dollars that they expect to recoup from the stopping of 13000 illegally pirated copies.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Years of history suggest rampant piracy is directly linked to the rise of the Nigerian film industry, a.k.a. “Nollywood.”

This should not be surprising; it’s exactly what happened in the American film industry. The reason a remote region in the southwestern corner of the USA is today considered synonymous with the film industry is because the people who originally wanted to establish the modern film industry were pirates. They went there to get as far as they could away from Thomas Edison, who had invented the technology for motion pictures and lived in the northeastern US, so they could blatantly violate his patent rights without it being feasible for him to do anything about it.

Of course, now that they’re established, they see piracy as a threat. Hypocrites.

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