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The Piracy Virus – Any Miracle Cure?
Remember the famous high spirited Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and the impetuous Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy; (The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End,) which were released in 2003, 2006, 2007 respectively. The first prequel (in my opinion) was the best of the trilogy, and grossed a whooping $656Million world wide. Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) can’t be excluded from these exciting adventures, full of intrigue, mystery, suspense, the element of surprise, pint of comedy, action, treachery, combat, romance, visual and special effects, beautifully wrapped into a wholesome package as they traversed the high seas in search of fortune, liberty, from “the curse” and the Royal British Navy in hot pursuit.
These three thespians perfectly portraying the characters they were hired to play in the flicks, possess one thing in common flowing deadly through their blood veins which i term the “piracy virus” with the natural absence of camaraderie as depicted in certain scenes in the flicks. Quite a handful of movies in Hollywood have with time de-mystified the lives and times of pirates. The word “Piracy” is said to have originated from the 13 century BC and was simply robbery committed at sea by recalcitrant fellows who had been ostracized from the society and had become outlaws, a bad influence on society, plying their trade in nefarious activities frowned at by the sovereign Government of the day. They hardly preened themselves but opted to religiously wear dirty clothes, earrings, keep overgrown beards, with yellow teeth that craved for the dentist’s attention, ably accompanied by its companion halitosis. The frightful spine chilling grin often caused their victims hearts to palpitate.
The captain of the ship stood out from his humble potential mutiny inclined servants with his bicorne hat, having in traditional times the skull and the cross bone insignia, which was also reflected on the ship’s mast. The loyal parrot on his shoulder acted as his third eye, the prosthetic hook, eye patch, and the Navy blue/black jacket were undoubtedly his fashion statement. Nobody moved until he gave the orders, hectoring any one who crossed his path. They were certainly a hardy group but gullible to the pleasures of life, getting drunk with rum and engaging in revelry, in a bid to forget their worries and the looming mental picture of the fate that awaited them at the gallows if they were caught by the authorities.
Piracy has over the years spread from the organized off shore network to the onshore territories, invoking a catastrophic effect on the populace and leaving their trails behind (a reminder that their paths had crossed with the shaken and ruffled up populace) which soon becomes untraceable as they masterfully conceal them. The stakeholders are the worst hit, who lick their wounds and count their losses. The act of Piracy has proliferated beyond what sceptics had envisaged, and with the state of the art technology at their disposal, they’ve spread their umbrella over Intellectual property, becoming grand masters in the game, especially in the area of Copy right infringement. The Intellectual property law from which one’s rights accrues allows owners of works to seek refuge under the copy right laws to protect their ideas, have control over them and make tons of money. Copy right laws exist to protect the owner’s materials and forbids anyone from reproducing and distributing same without their permission.
Piracy unfortunately has a strong grip on the Entertainment and Literary market. In the Movie sphere, copies of VCDs /DVDs bought by the roadside, down the street, creates visual distortions now and again, which prevents one from enjoying the movie flight. The cinematography quality is below standard, the movie stops abruptly because the disc has silently led a revolt against the plague of technical deficiencies imputed in it. How many Nigerians are guilty of purchasing local and foreign pirated flicks with the latter showing a movie goer’s head and body blocking the gigantic screen, or walking past it, or people laughing, clapping, cat calling in response to certain scenes watched in the flicks.
Foreign pirated flicks that have flooded the Nigerian market are the handy work of pirates in other countries who telesync. They of course sneak into Theatres with camcorders and secretly tape the movies. The copies produced turn out to be sub- standard and through their network sell same on our streets. However, the evil genius ‘Maven” was an exception to the “sub-standard rule” and was known among pirates for producing “quality bootleg movies”, until the long arm of the Law caught up with him. The Internet has become a medium through which movies are illegally down loaded from certain websites for free or for a price, and are replicated in mass and sold. The Music terrain also suffers the same fate with bootleg recordings of Artistes works being sold on the streets.
People have opined various reasons for purchasing VCDs/DVDs such as:
1) There’s no point going all the way to the stores to buy from those who have met the marketing criteria set by the National Film and Video Censor’s Board (NFVCB) when one can get same down the street, around the corner, for a cheaper price in comparison to the price tag put on the original copies
2) The movie producers, actors, make tons of money and live a flamboyant life style so why cry wolf ?
3) It’s a Global problem, and even Gods’ own country is not free from it, besides it’s easily accessible where one chooses to down load it from the internet for free or for a paltry sum, so why not ?
4) One can even watch foreign flicks before it’s shown at the cinemas, and even if it’s being shown at the cinemas, the cost of purchasing a ticket is about six times the amount used in buying a pirated flick.
Piracy is certainly a global problem hitting various movie bodies where it hurts the most, powerfully aided by their network with hot spots in Europe, America, and South Asia. Bollywood has not been exempted from this “Entertainment massacre”.
Nigeria looses millions of Naira yearly to the seemingly unshakeable piracy network, especially on the International circuit to its African counterparts and other countries. It is amazing how these dare devils work audaciously to ensure that the illicit business thrives. Armed with the financial resources, cutting edge technology, connections, they break the flow of the legal distribution cycle and flood the market with their pirated versions within hours, days of the first run movies, and sometimes before its official release. It is obvious that with technology and a strong network on their side, the authorities might well be fishing in the dark.
The Public should understand that making a movie is capital intensive. In other parts of the world, producers source for money from banks, high net worth individuals, large studios etc, unlike in Nigeria where financiers are mostly marketers who also double as distributors. On the foreign scene Investors recoup their money through box office sales (global, especially if it’s a high budget movie), DVDs, cable, TV rights to broadcast the movies etc. In Nigeria it’s recouped through only one source which is the sale of the VCDs/DVDs. Where pirated copies are purchased the producer runs the risk of never recouping the money, and if that happens consistently, potential financiers would be discouraged from investing in the movie making business, which will ultimately lead to a constant decline in the number of movies produced, heavy job cuts, a possible experience of the wilting days of entertainment, signalling a moribund end for the Industry.
The current sale of 15 movies (local and foreign) dubbed on a single DVD by the pirates, and sold cheaply to the public for as low as N 200 leaves much to be desired. The release of movies straight to DVD /VCD in Nigeria makes the pirates job a lot easier, after all just a single copy of the DVD/VCD is what is needed to create a booming multiplicity with its attendant financial magic making them smile to the banks. The National Film and Video Censors Board (“NFVCB”) headed by the Director General, Mr Emeka Mba has vowed to combat piracy and bring the perpetuators to book. The Board has been using the TV medium to enlighten the public about the dangers of buying and selling pirated works, owning of illegal video clubs, selling uncensored and unclassified movies through the unstructured distribution framework (now corrected with the New Distribution Framework), amongst others.
The National Copyright Commission (“NCC”) headed by Mr Adebambo Adewopo also launched its war against piracy, with the “Strategic Action Against Piracy” (“STRAP”) to protect people’s works from all forms of Copy right infringement. The “NCC’s” Copyright Inspectors have conducted raids via tip off on piracy bases. The Commission also came up with the Optical Disc Regulation Policy, aimed at regulating the various Disc replicating and Duplicating plants, with its swift prosecution of offenders and the Alaba Anti- Piracy Task Force, Lagos. Alaba is known on one hand as ‘the’ vibrant marketing and distribution base of the Industry, and on the other as ‘the notorious’ base for the promotion of pirated works. Other Marketing /distribution domains are found in Idumota (Lagos), Namdi Azikiwe (Lagos), Iweka road (Onitsha), and Pound road (Aba) . They are also not pirate- free zones.
Artistes have not been spared from the copyright massacre, as their works are also being pirated, going by the fact that Music has become the number one source of entertainment in Nigeria. The Multi – million Industry which has transformed the lives of Artistes, whisking them away from the valley of lack on to the mountain top of fame and fortune, has caught the attention of the International communities, teeming Nigerian youths, Corporate bodies (who engage the services of Top rated Artistes when launching new products). TV reality music shows have also sprung forth, such as “Project Fame West Africa”, “Idols West Africa”, “Star Quest”, “Nokia First Chance”, “Peak Talent Show”), while various Local and International Award platforms ( “MAMA”, “Kora”, “Hip Hop World Awards”, “NMVA”, “SMVA”) are on hand to reward them. One can listen to music while on the move or at a spot via the Radio broadcast received through mobile phones, sound systems at home, in cars, from the boom boxes in the neighbourhood, through the TV, practically almost everywhere, (especially in Lagos state).
The continued act of piracy over the works of Artistes prompted members of the Nigerian music Industry (Coalition) to embark on a hunger strike from the 25th of August 2009 apparently till the 1st of September 2009, (to protest the Federal Government’s lackadaisical attitude towards piracy). They declared the 1st of September 2009 as “No Music Day”, having appealed to the Media not to broadcast music over the airways on the said date for six hours (9am – 3pm). Unfortunately the Radio and TV stations did not honour their request and blasted music according to their regular schedule as the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had earlier declared that where such act was allowed , there would be a negation of the terms of license of the broadcast station to serve Nigerians, programmes without music was inconceivable, contractual agreements with clients would be broken, and certain stations whose strength revolves around music would be put at a disadvantage.
Authors on a regular basis experience copy right infringement of their works (literary and non-literary), losing the financial reward that would automatically have accrued to them. Piracy without an iota of doubt is certainly a big problem within our shores. The “NFVCB” and the “NCC” should continue to carry out aggressive public enlightment campaigns, conduct seminars, bi-annual stakeholders conference. I believe that an Independent body, separate from the “NCC” ( which is already saddled with too many responsibilities) be established to specifically combat piracy, bringing perpetuators to book in the Courts of Law, the way the EFCC and ICPC were specifically established to rid the Nation of corruption .
Hot lines, e-mail addresses, adverts promoting the body and stating what awaits offenders via the media, regular press conferences, interactive websites, functional offices where complaints can be lodged, unreserved co-operation by the Police with relevant bodies and its officials especially when embarking on raids, embrace of the Water Mark technology, partnership with foreign counterparts to monitor the distribution process within their shores, ensuring that justice is not only done but is seen to have been done are some of the ways i believe piracy can be reduced to the barest minimum within our shores.
These are a few practical suggestions that can be used in combating piracy. Can the piracy virus and its host be quarantined? Yes it can. Can the virus be totally eliminated from the Entertainment circuit? Yes it can, “if the miracle cure is found”, and what is the miracle cure? …well that’s the $64,000 dollar question earnestly begging for an answer!
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