The Nigerian media and entertainment industry is a thriving scene. From globally awarded artists to critically acclaimed works and even modern comedy, it is clear that the industry is a force to reckon with, both locally and internationally. Not only is the industry loved by fans across the globe, but there also doesn’t seem to be a shortage of international collaborations, nominations and global awards for Nigerian entertainers. Yet, regardless of how well an industry thrives, piracy and copyright infringement are major challenges to be tackled.
A report by PWC recognized the Nigerian media and entertainment industry as one of the fastest-growing creative industries in the world. According to the report, Nigeria’s film industry contributed about 239 billion Naira ($660 million) to the country’s GDP in 2021 and is projected to earn about $900 million in 2023! That is an expected 36.3% jump in just two years.
Entertainment has always been a part of Nigerian culture but its expressions have evolved over the years. In the past, entertainers traveled in troupes to perform across the country, later progressing to family sitcoms and TV shows in the 90s and early 2000s. Around that time, Nigerian music had started to gain international recognition, King Sunny Ade got his Grammy nomination in 1983, and another in 1999 for his album titled, ‘Odu’. Other forms of entertainment such as comedy had started to gain prominence around the 1950s till the late 1990s, Prominent names like Moses Olaiya [Baba Sala], Usman Baba Pategi [Samanja], Sunday Omobolanle [PapiLuwe/Aluwe] were among the pioneers at that time. John Chukwu, JC is known as the father of Modern Comedy but it is Alibaba, who is credited with ushering in another wave of comedy in Nigeria. This wave found its expression in notable shows such as ‘Night of a Thousand Laugh,’ AY Live, and others.
With the internet boom and the advent of social media, significant changes had to take place in the industry. Streaming platforms and social media have helped the spread and growth of the industry across the shores of the nation, artistes and actors can interact with fans and reach a global audience. Other forms of entertainment like comedy have become even more popular. Stand-Up comedy is now available on-demand via streaming platforms and creative individuals can produce videos disseminated primarily via social media platforms, these creative individuals have introduced another category – digital creators.
These changes have contributed to the growth of the industry but there have also been adverse effects. As more people access and consume multiple forms of entertainment, the lines for acceptable practice have blurred. Since 2020, reports show that there has been an increase in piracy and copyright infringement yet very few of these perpetrators and offenders are caught and held accountable for their actions.
Entertainers have long fought against the theft of their intellectual property since the hay days of Alaba International market, the den of piracy and though there are laws in place, even lawmakers have been called out for flaunting the law.
Recently, popular musician Timi Dakolo called out the use of his song, “Great Nation,” at the APC presidential primary election held in Abuja. He took to his social media page and tweeted, “Why use an artist’s song without permission in a rally or campaign. The things people get away with in this country called Nigeria. Actually, this is the second time.”
The talent manager of the award-winning comedian and skit maker, Chukwuemeka Emmanuel, known as Oga Sabinus threatened legal action against Friesland Campina WAMCO Nigeria PLC for using his trademark, “Something Hooge” and UAC food for using an animated image of Sabinus for Gala sausage roll.
These incidents and others raise the question, are there no laws protecting the theft or illegal use of intellectual and creative property in Nigeria? The Nigerian Copyright Act of the Federation 2004 recognized literary work, artistic work, music works, cinematography films, sound recording and broadcasts. Although the act can be enforced once a work is reproduced on any platform(including the internet), the internet has exposed areas of infringement which the Act makes no provision for. Wizkid’s ‘Made in Lagos’ Album
Copyright laws exist, therefore entertainers are well within their rights to call out or sue individuals or corporate bodies if the work in question is subject to copyright as in Timi Dakolo’s case where his claim is supported by “broadcast or communicate the work to the public by a loudspeaker or any other similar device,” or in cases where the act has inadequate provisions. Thus, copyright laws and governing bodies such as Musical Copyright Society Nigeria(MCSN) will have to be subject to change in light of the recent technological advancement and digital strides.
Nigerian Lawmakers have passed a bill to strengthen copyright laws to include restrictions on online and rebroadcasting without consent. While this is a step in the right direction, governing bodies such as Musical Copyright Society Nigeria(MCSN), Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), Nigerian Copyrights Commission( N.C.C.), the Audio Visual Rights Society of Nigeria (AVRS) and Reproduction Rights Organizations of Nigeria (REPRONIG) will have to be at the front lines of ensuring the rights of entertainers are protected. These entertainers may be seen as ‘victims’ who deserve more than our legal climate currently offers. Thankfully, many social media and streaming platforms like Netflix have structures in place to inhibit copyright infringements.
Undoubtedly, the entertainment industry owes much of its growth to technology, yet it loses billions of Naira online from illegal upload of movies, songs etc without consent. The World Bank estimates that nine pirated copies are sold for every legal copy (of a Nigerian movie) that is sold. As of 2014, it was estimated that Nollywood alone had lost ₦82 billion to piracy. Without proper structures and laws, this will continue to happen. Social media and streaming platforms are helping to combat the impact of piracy, entertainers and the general public will also benefit from structured enlightenment sessions on what consists of copyright infringement, and its consequences. This was reiterated during the ninth edition of the Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NECLive 9) themed ‘Sustaining the Africa Momentun’. During a session on Understanding IP and Content Commercialisation in the Global Marketplace, Ifeanyi Okonkwo, Senior Associate and IP Portfolio Manager at Jackson, Etti & Edu, revealed that most entertainers and creative professionals are ignorant of their legal rights in relation to their creative products. Conversations like this will have to be had over and again, until we begin to see a decline in copyright infringement.
Adetola Fajembola is a writer living in Lagos.