“Half of a Yellow Sun”, the most expensive Nigerian film since the emergence of the phenomenal Nollywood is currently being pirated on the streets and on the internet. It is the tragic fate of this film that was largely financed with a loan from the US$200 million Entertainment Intervention Fund of the Nigerian Creative and Entertainment Industry Stimulation Loan Scheme (NCEILS), run by the Bank of Industry in Nigeria; And the world premiere was in the Special Presentation section at the 38th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2013. The film also screened at other international film festivals, with both public and private premieres in the UK and Nigeria, with commercial screenings at cinemas in the UK.
But the public screenings have been delayed for months in Nigeria by the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) until a week ago, when it got the much awaited approval among 77 movies, and rated “18”. The movie is expected to start screening at the cinemas in Nigeria from August 1, 2014, while it is already officially streaming on PANATV.com for US residents, and will begin online streaming from Monday, August 4, 2014 for UK residents. And while the official release date for the Blu-ray / DVD is July 29, 2014, in the US, the “Half of a Yellow Sun” is already being pirated on YouTube.
This is piracy, because only PANATV.com has the right to play it online for US residents. And the worst case is, the film is being pirated by several CD/DVD vendors on the streets of Lagos, and other cities in West Africa, and the producers of the film are seemingly doing nothing about it.
Piracy is destroying the Nigerian film industry and all the stakeholders are to blame, with the exception of those who have been reporting the inadequacies and shortcomings in Nollywood, Kannywood and other integral components of the Nigerian film industry. But the title chasers are more desperate for setting up their self-appointed committees to represent Nigeria at coveted international annual award events in America, and joining international associations, instead of addressing the economic sabotage caused by piracy, the most common enemy of progress of all producers of movies and other forms of entertainment.
And the news reporters in Nigeria who are employed to report and expose the rampant crimes of piracy, are more interested in collecting brown envelopes, and as the proverbial saying goes, “He who pays the piper dictates the tune.” So, it is not surprising that when intellectual works are being pirated openly in public, the news reporters prefer to only gossip about it in their newsrooms and rendezvous pubs in town.
What causes piracy of intellectual works is poor content management by the producers and distributors, who fail to implement the available anti-piracy strategies and tools, and the incompetent administrators in government.
Many filmmakers and distributors in other countries are working in cooperation and support with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that “believes in protecting creative works and the people who make them. Whether you’re making a film, writing a book or recording a song, the amount of time, effort, and investment is more than a passion – it’s also someone’s livelihood. For America’s creative sector to thrive, intellectual property laws must protect the hard work of creators and makers while ensuring an Internet that works for everyone.” But filmmakers and distributors in Nigeria have no defined plans for the control and prevention of the piracy of movies, and, in fact, willingly offer their movies to those who undervalue the financial worth, by repeatedly broadcasting and recycling them on cable TV networks and public TV channels. They don’t even care how many times and locations their movies are broadcast, once they have been paid as little as US$2,000 (two thousand dollars) only. And then their movies are pirated in other locations outside Nigeria.
Is the US$2,000 for one broadcast on TV, or for life broadcast rights?
Only a fool will give his or her movie to a distributor online or offline for just a one-off payment of such a pittance in Nigeria, and do nothing, as the same creative work is circulated widely for the entertainment of millions of cable TV subscribers and public TV viewers in other countries in Africa. And while the stars are enjoying the stardom of their continental and global celebrity status as famous household names, collecting millions as appearance fees, and more millions from endorsements as brand ambassadors, the producers are left at the mercy of dishonest distributors and pirates.
And to worsen their predicament, the Nigerian government has failed to sign bilateral co-production treaties with other countries to promote and protect Nigerian movies in international markets as many other countries have done.
This is not the first time I have addressed this monstrous economic sabotage by notorious pirates, because it was reported in the first edition of my NOLLYWOOD MIRROR® SERIES in 2013. But ignorant and nonchalant stakeholders prefer to compete for bragging rights over titular pursuits and government handouts. And until they show that they are serious stakeholders in the Nigerian film industry, the economic sabotage by unrepentant pirates will continue to rob them of the rewards of their labour, except they have decided to give up and join the enemies of progress and become shareholders in the billion dollar piracy of movies for their mutual benefit.
Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima is the Publisher/Editor of NOLLYWOOD MIRROR® SERIES.