Arts  

Kano State Takes Bold Steps To Battle Piracy

President of African Film Consortium Mykel Ajaere; Mr. Emeka Ossai, Chairman, Board of AFC, Mr. Soheir Kader; Vice President, West Africa for AFC, Mr. Victor Okhai; Mr. Mahmood Ali Balogun and producer, Ms Chinasa Onyechere after the AFC symposium… in Lagos

President of African Film Consortium Mykel Ajaere; Mr. Emeka Ossai, Chairman, Board of AFC, Mr. Soheir Kader; Vice President, West Africa for AFC, Mr. Victor Okhai; Mr. Mahmood Ali Balogun and producer, Ms Chinasa Onyechere after the AFC symposium… in Lagos

ON the day before Idris Elba led the cast and crew of Beast of No Nation to Nigeria for a red carpet premiere of the war movie that has the signature of Cary Fukunaga, DVD copies of the movie which is based on a novel by Mr. Uzodinma Iweala (son of the former Finance Minister) was already being sold on the streets of Lagos and other Nigerian cities. The advance team was surprised to find that the same film they had come to promote was already everywhere. They were shocked to find that copies of the film were being sold even in traffic on major roads in Lagos.

A member of the team said he had to buy a pirated copy in the traffic along Ozumba Mbadiwe Street, Victoria Island for N1000. “I wanted to be sure I was not dreaming and that it is the film that we have come to premiere that is being sold back to us on the streets,” he said.

However, the fellow discovered when he got to the hotel reserved for the cast and crew of the film which brought to life the gripping tale of a child-soldier torn from his family to fight in a civil was, that it was not a dream. Indeed, he discovered to his amazement that the copy he bought even though it looked like a screen capture of the original film was real. He immediately put a call through to their agent in the United State to inform them that the film which has been receiving critical reviews around the world and which only started screening in Nigeria after the planned December 12 premiere had been pirated.

If the fellow found the development startling, observers of the industry weren’t. The Beast of No Nation example is just one of the many cases of pirated local and foreign films. The issue of piracy in Nigeria has defied solution. Even the regulatory agency – Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) doesn’t seem to have ready answers to how the activities of pirates can be curbed. Practitioners have blamed NCC for looking the other way while copyright infringers perpetrate their act in the full view.

For instance, they decried the fact that pirated movies are now hawked in the open and are released days before or after the original copies, a situation they say has made it impossible for filmmakers to recoup their investment. They fear that the inability of Nigerian government to curb piracy both at home and abroad may lead to the eventual demise of what has been described as Nigeria’s home-grown industry.

However, a new move that may discourage pirates is underway just that it would only be beneficial to a segment of the industry. Kano State government plans to build a film market to fight piracy in what is popularly called Kannywood. The state governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, made the pledge when a delegation comprising management team of National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) paid him a courtesy visit. The NFVCB delegation was in Kano for the North West zonal arm of the board’s roadshow.

The governor lamented the scourge of piracy in the industry and promised that only genuine movie products would be sold in the proposed market. Governor Ganduje called for national legislation to tackle the menace of piracy in the industry.

Earlier in her address, Director General of NFVCB, Ms Patricia Bala, described Kano as the hub of Hausa language film industry. She, however, bemoaned the increasing assimilation of Indian film culture by Kannnywood practitioners and promised that the board was working towards moderating the unwholesome development.

Observers are waiting eagerly to see how the establishment of the proposed film market in Kano will help tackle the menace of piracy. They believe that if the Kano experiment succeeds, such markets would be replicated in other parts of the country. But while they are waiting for Kano State to set the pace, they want more efforts to be devoted to public enlightenment and enforcement.

Notable filmmaker and former Chairman of Kano-based Motion Picture Practitioner Association of Nigeria (MOPPAN), Mr. Sanni Muazu, wants piracy to be declared an economic crime and legislation put in place to punish pirates. According to him, “’Piracy is a monstrous disincentive to investment in the creative industry. Piracy has continued to thrive because it is not considered an economic crime. We would have reduced piracy to the barest if we had laws that equated piracy to robbery and drug peddling. But our laws are so weak that they even encourage piracy”.

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