An international forum on copyright, organised to chart a new course for Nollywood, holds in Lagos

The need for the protection of intellectual property rights can never be overemphasised. It was for this reason that the Association of Nollywood Core Producers, ANCOP, and the International Federation of Film Producers Association, FIAPF, organised an international forum on copyright and growth in Nollywood at Protea Hotel in G.R.A Ikeja, Lagos recently. The need for the conference was hinged on the premise that a strong and effective copyright law is essential if Nollywood is to be taken to the next level.The parley, the first to be organised in conjunction with the umbrella body of film producers globally, was a unique opportunity for the Nigerian entertainment industry to take stock of developments in copyright legislation at home and on the global stage. The forum also discussed the need for the industry to adopt best practices in the use of intellectual property rights and consider the importance of robust copyright legislation for the future growth of Nollywood as a sustainable business sector.

L-R Barr. Efere Ozako and Bertrand Moullier

The confab also helped to highlight the need for Nigeria to take the necessary steps to ratify and implement the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Internet Treaties into the country’s laws. The rights therein, it is reasoned, would update the Intellectual Property (IP) protection Nigerian creative companies need to enable them to license movies safely and securely in the emergent online platforms which are helping to extend Nollywood films’ market at home and abroad.

Comrade Alex Eyengho, President of ANCOP, called on the Nigerian government to take the issue of copyright seriously as it is the only way the entertainment industry would be able to make a full contribution to economic growth and development. He said since there would soon be consultations across the country on the Nigerian copyright reform, it is vital that there is coherence between local copyright law and the international copyright framework. “Copyright is about putting creativity, one of Nigeria’s most valuable assets, to work,” Eyengho said.

Bernard Moulier, Policy Advisor of FIAPF, used case studies of recent blockbusters such as Lord of the Rings to highlight the strategic role that copyright-based transactions played in how they were financed and distributed. Moullier also demonstrated through a slide presentation, the universal value of copyright and related rights protection in making independent cinema financially sustainable.

In his paper, ‘The Nigerian Film Sector and its Related Copyright Challenges’, Mr. Mayo Ayilaran, Chief Executive Officer, Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria, bemoaned the fact that best practices are not adhered to in executing copyright policies in Nigeria because practitioners set aside the provisions of the law to pursue their subjective preferences over and above what the law intends. He said though certain rights are guaranteed the artist in the Copyright Act of 2004, the challenge is how to aggregate or de-aggregate the rights for efficient and effective protection and administration.

Chief Tony Okoroji, Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria, COSON, decried the prevailing situation whereby pirates exploit artistes in Nigeria. “There are many in the industry who will swear that for every legitimate copy of a movie sold in Nigeria, five illegitimate copies have been sold. The widespread sale of unauthorised copies of movies remains one of the biggest challenges of Nollywood. In a way, two industries have emerged in Nigeria: one called Nollywood and the other called Alaba, and the resultant situation is one of Monkey dey work, Baboon dey chop,” he said.

Mr. Efere Ozako, an entertainment lawyer who has been in the forefront of the campaign to protect intellectual property rights in Nigeria, stressed the need for artistes to imbibe the best copyright and artistic practices in order to take the Nigerian entertainment industry to a new dimension. Bemoaning the fact that many Nigerian artistes are unaware of the terms of the contract they enter into, he urged them to be conversant with international contract agreement and copyright laws to enable them gain enormously from the industry. He also urged Nollywood to be abreast of changes and trends in the global entertainment industry.

—Nehru Odeh/TheNEWS magazine