What iROKO Partners Limited & Others have done for Entertainment and Copyright Law In Nigeria
The age of Web 2.0 is finally fully upon us and Nigeria as the true giants of Africa is experiencing the rapid growth of the digital economy which has created a global market for content and rights holders
This rapid change offers a wider scope for both the legitimate and counterfeit use of trademarks, copyrights and licenses, but according to A. Denton, a communications expert, this also creates a threat that — without adequate controls — piracy will damage the creative industries. Fully understanding how to manage the balance when the consumer is the creator, when the marginal cost of copying is zero, when enforcement of existing law is extremely difficult, and when “free” access to information and content is considered by many to be a right.
The Nigerian media and entertainment Industry boasts of enormous creativity and potentials, but illegal copying and distribution of copyright materials has had a hugely disruptive effect on a range of copyright industries, including music, film, television, publishing, games and software.
Different attempts have been made by the government to combat piracy and to regulate intellectual property; it has ratified several copyright treaties, such as Copyright Act No. 47 of 1988 (codified as Chapter 68, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990) as amended. The Copyright Act has been amended twice by the Copyright (Amendment) Decree No. 98 of 1992 and Copyright (Amendment) Decree No. 42 of 1999, but little progress had been made in fighting intellectual property violation.
According to Professor G.O Sodipo, a legal practitioner and expert in film making law, the understanding of the copyright law would assist film makers to appreciate the benefit of written contracts and how arts and creativity can be protected in all forms.
“Without copyright which is the right to stop other people from copying creativity, the basic thing is that if you want somebody to make use of your work try and have a written contract.”
Now enters iROKO Partners Limited, a firm with a mandate to make money by providing exclusive access to legally acquired digital content (movies, music and T.V) on the web. To the average person, they will come out as one of the many gold diggers that want to benefit from the digital boom, but the unique thing about this company is their decision to go about accessing their content using a legalized method, and honouring copyright agreements.
I am just like the average person who enjoys access to torrent downloads and many other freebies the web has to offer, and I welcomed them on their Nollywoodlove channel on YouTube where they gave me access to countless movies and when they switched to their iROKOtv website, I followed them still enjoying the free movies they had to offer. Soon after, they launched their iROKING platform which also gave me access to online streaming of Nigerian music content.
It was only when I began to hear about the CEO of the company Jason Njoku, that I began to research on the company, and discovered the enormous ways this “Made In Nigeria” brand has been able to not only invest in the economy, but also to help push forward the development of the Nigerian Media and Entertainment Industry.
Unlike many countries, Nigeria does not operate a centralised system of registration for copyright and IROKO Partners Limited through its insistence on owning property rights whether exclusively or non-exclusively has been able to aid the legalised digital distribution of Nollywood movies in over 178 countries where it has online presence, coming up with a structure that pays both the producers, directors and the consumers of the content Home and Abroad
With their strong legal team, they have aggressively fought piracy of digital content to a stand still in both Nigeria and outside the country; I have arrived at leaked versions of movies and music on the web, and was greeted by the iROKO Partners stamp signifying that the content wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place.
Nobody likes the Cops in their black suits, so there have been many attacks against their efforts, but their success so far has proved that you should sometimes avoid listening to baseless criticism.. I have checked a few websites and have discovered that they have movies and songs that have the iROKO copyright signifying authenticity of the material, so what others have chosen to term as “bullying” or “witch hunting”, I have chosen to call by its real name “legalizing”, so whether they have made money from it or not, it remains to say that they were able to create a blue ocean that has tremendously benefitted the media and entertainment industry.