Nigerian Entertainment Sector: Piracy or Market Failure?

Posted on August 26 2014 , at 03:19 pm
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By Ojoma Ochai

Ojoma Ochai

So I have been thinking a lot about this and have spoken to various people with differing views. I have come to the conclusion however that Nollywood and other IP based sectors in Nigeria are not suffering from a piracy problem but from a market failure to match supply to demand.

Here’s how I see it. Mr X makes a brilliant film. His Alaba producer makes 5,000 copies ( or whatever number) to see how the film does in the market before he makes a decision as to whether to make more copies or not. Patriotic comrade Musa travels from Kano to Alaba and buys 100 copies so that he too can ‘try’ the market back home in Kano. He gets back to Kano, sells out in 2 days. And needs more copies. Dear friends, Mr Musa will make the decision to duplicate his remaining copy rather than go back to Alaba because lets face it, that’s the convenient thing to do! And the next time Mr Musa goes to Alaba, you bet he is not buying 100 copies – he will go straight to buying one copy and duplicating it. And so the practice is built and with it an ecosystem of unauthorised copying aka ‘piracy’.

Now this is a very simplistic explanation/rationale but the reality is:

1. Producers need to capture or have enough data to be able to use previous sales trends to make informed guestimates on how many copies of any released film / music CD / book etc they need to produce upfront to ensure that supply can meet demand. And we need production capacity to make this possible.

2. We need thousands of ‘alabas’ in all states of Nigeria to ensure simultaneous releases of film (or other IP products) in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. In other words, we need to stop putting our IP products in 3 locations and think we have ‘distributed’ them. The product has to be available everywhere at the same time to ensure there is less of a supply gap for ‘pirates’ to explore.

3. Creative producers need to find multiple streams of revenue and stop the singular dependence on CD sales. We need new business and distribution models!

In short, unless we fix the distribution problem, we should not expect that we can conquer unauthorised CD copying anytime soon.

Ojoma Ochai is Director Arts, British Council Nigeria, Member UNESCO Pool of Experts (2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression) and Fellow, DEVOS Institute of Arts Management of the Kennedy Centre, Washington DC.

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