NEWS ANALYSIS: Protecting Entertainment Industry From Piracy

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Stakeholders in entertainment industry observe that piracy has become impediment to film-makers and the development of the arts and entertainment industry.

Worried by the activities of the pirates, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said his ministry would work with the relevant agencies of government to tackle piracy.

In an interaction with some stakeholders in the movie industry in Lagos recently, he said government would discourage piracy.

The interaction, attended by popular Nollywood actors and actresses, is aimed at identifying challenges and provide solutions.

The minister observed that piracy – stealing and sale of intellectual properties such as films, books and paintings – were rampant.

He said there had been instances where some films and books were even sold a few days before the official release of the original work.

“I am told that a recent study revealed that there are eight pirated works to two original works out of every ten works you find in the market.

“This is totally unacceptable. This administration is determined to fight this scourge and the good news is that we have the backing of the president.

“In fact, one of the president’s early directives to security agencies was to tackle piracy so that practitioners can be able to recoup their investments and contribute to the socio-economic development of the nation.

“We shall work with the necessary agencies of government to activate that presidential directive,” he promised.

The minister said his ministry would explore the possibility of moving the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) back to the Ministry of Information and Culture.

“I am aware that one of your complaints is that the NCC, which ought to be under the supervision of the Ministry of Information and Culture which directly deals with matters that concern you, is now under the Ministry of Justice.

“We will address this complaint and explore the possibility of moving the NCC back to where it rightly belongs.

“This is important because the decision to move the NCC to the Ministry of Justice has caused a major disconnect between the industry and the other sector of the arts.

“It has also not allowed us to take advantage of the many treaties that clearly acknowledge the place of audio-visual performers in the scheme of things.

“For instance, I am aware that in spite of the position we occupy in Africa in the area of entertainment, Nigeria has yet to ratify the World Intellectual Property Performances and Phonograms Treaty which it signed in 1996.

“And the more recent, the Beijing Treaty on Audio-visual Performances, which it also signed in 2012, has yet to be ratified,” he said.

The minister said the ratification and domestication of both treaties would provide the needed upgrade in the protection of performers in the music and film industries and would encourage legislative reform processes.

“We will see how to quickly correct that but while we are at that, we shall work with the relevant agencies and ministries to see how we can tackle piracy,” he said.

The minister stressed the need to review and strengthen the existing copyright laws as well as make the punishment more stringent to discourage pirates.

“Perhaps, a longer jail term with no option of fine and a speedy trial of suspects as we have in other countries will help in this fight.

“I think also that the entertainment industry is ripe enough to have a dedicated national task force on piracy.

“We shall propose that and see how it all works out for the good of our cultural industries and the nation.

“We truly need a proactive enforcement of the copyright law so as to make the creative industry lucrative,” he said.

The minister also said the Federal Government would set up a national endowment for the arts to facilitate the introduction of tax rebates as incentives for sponsors of the arts.

He said it would give prime place to the arts and cultural sector in budgeting processes, since it had capacity to create massive job opportunities.

The minister said as part of its massive social intervention policy, the administration had made available N500 billion to be accessed by creative people such as movie actors, artisans, market women, unemployed youths and others.

Commending the minister, Mahmood Ali-Balogun, a Nollywood filmmaker, said that the stakeholders were impressed because the minister was informed on how to move the industry forward.

He, nonetheless, urged the minister to create a special task force to deal with piracy.

“We need a task force such as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad that will only be responsible for arresting people that are involved in piracy.

“It is only when we have this task force that we can know that piracy will come to an end,” he said.

Kate Henshaw, a Nollywood actress and producer, urged the minister to dedicate some days in a year for the remembrance of some industry actors and actresses who had passed away.

She said this would create events for Nigerians and people from other countries to come to celebrate such great people in the industry.

Saheed Balogun, a Nollywood producer and director, also urged the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of anti-piracy laws.

He said the passage of the laws would attract foreign investment into the movie industry, observing that the delay in the passage of the laws was preventing a lot of investors from investing in the sector.

He commended the present administration’s move to tackle piracy which he said had discouraged investment in the movie industry.

In spite of this, Mrs Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, the founder of the African Movie Academy Award, expressed optimism that the challenges facing the movie industry would soon be over because the minister understood the challenges.

She, however, observed the challenge that required immediate action was the trouble of distribution and piracy.

“Piracy and distribution are the major challenges that will make the big difference in the industry because they work hand-in-hand. These are topmost challenges that must be tackled head-long,” she said.

She, nevertheless, called on all stakeholders to support the minister in achieving the aims and objectives he had set for the industry.(NANFeatures)

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