In recent times there have been a loud outcry by film makers in the Nigerian film industry regarding the damage that is been done to their businesses by the notorious Alaba International Market piracy cartel. Some film makers have even stated that it’s now an all-out war against piracy since the government isn’t doing much to help.
For those of you who don’t know, let me try to explain how big this Alaba Market is and how powerful the piracy cartel are. Alaba International Market is located in ojo local government area of Lagos state, along badagry expressway. It is very close to the nigerian-cotonou border, this market is the largest of its kind in the whole of west-africa and it attracts customers from all parts of africa on a daily basis. There is arguably nothing that you cannot find in this market from electronics, to plumbering material, to interior decor, to household materials, to clothes, phone accessories etc. Everything is available in this market that covers over 50 hectares of land, stretching about 10km. Alaba market employs around 15,000 youths working in various capacity.
The piracy cartel that operates in this market have their own section where they sell their products. They print cd label, cd jacket, burn and package their pirated copy of movies or music all inside the market. They have become so powerful, so rich and well connected over the years. They are so powerful that they fought back at the police and some film makers who tried to raid their market at some point, now their section of the market has become a lion’s den which no police officer or film maker will dare to enter in an attempt to raid them. This piracy cartel has grown so big to the level where by musicians are now left with no choice but to hand over the original copy of their songs to them in exchange for an agreed amount – if they ever hope to make a dime from their intellectual property. They then duplicate and distribute the songs to recover their money.
Now, let’s look at why I titled this post a “futile war against film piracy”. It’s obvious that chasing after this piracy cartel isn’t going to yield any fruitful result, instead it’ll only make them more determined to continue with their lucrative business. Their section in the market is impenetrable, even if the government succeed in penetrating them and catch a few of them – which most likely will be the foot soldiers, the government and the film makers will never be able to stomp out film piracy completely. Why you ask? Let’s face it, this is business, illegal yes but still it is business and no man will just lie down and watch you block his means of livelihood. This piracy cartel members are relentless, they will bounce back even bigger than before. Think of them as terrorists, as you kill one, five more will arise to fight back, so a carrot and stick approach won’t fix this problem, a more diplomatic solution will do.
A diplomatic solution??? Yes a diplomatic solution will do, let me explain. See it’s all about the force of demand and supply. Where there is a demand there is a market and where you have a market you’ll need manufacturers, distributors and vendors all working together to meet the consumers demand. Now the problem here is that you have a case of where one party is trying to be greedy and the other is saying oh yeah? Watch me out smart you while you continue been greedy. The film makers feel they should be getting the lion share for their hard work and investment in producing a film, which is right and justifiable but here is the problem – the film makers seems not to fully understand the dynamics of the business side of film making. They are not seeing the big picture, yes they produce the films which makes them the manufacturer but to sell your films you need film vendors who buys from film distributors who have and maintain a list of supply chains across the continent.
The piracy cartel in this case are supposed to be the film distributors, who sells to the film vendors that comes from all over Africa. This means that the piracy cartel have a lock down on the consumers, they have the supply chains and means to get to them faster than any film maker can.
The lasting solution is working hand in hand with the piracy cartel, well they’ll have to be rebranded as film distributors…lol. Notice I said working hand in hand with them and not giving out your movie to them on a platter. The former piracy cartel, now called film distributors will have to form an association that is recognized by law and legally empowered to carry out the function of distributing films on behalf of the film makers. After the association is formed, they’ll need an ethical code of conduct to guide their operations which is backed by the law and has exorbitant fine fee for any violator of these code of conducts. Then the film makers association needs to acknowledge the role of the film distributors and how important it is to have them on their side, working with them and not against them.
Working with the film distributors will involve a lot of transparency, honesty and coming up with really creative story/films that is marketable on the part the film makers. The film makers always need money to produce their films, so the government needs to help the film makers with a law that will encourage a film distributor to finance in full or in part, the production of a film he believes is marketable – which he gets the sole distributorship rights to in return for his investment in the production of the film. The film distributors will have to be carried along every step of the way, they will be responsible for designing and printing both marketing and packaging materials for the film as well as its distribution.
This solution will not only solve the piracy problem amicably, it will also ensure that everyone involved in the business sits up. Once the piracy cartel have a stake in financial gains of the success of a movie, they will be the ones to call themselves to order. You’ll see that they will start coming together to co-finance a movie production so as to get co-distribution rights, which will make them ensure that none of their members dare to pirate a movie they co-financed. They will want to be the only ones allowed by law to resell the movie to their fellow distributors at a discounted rate.
It’s not rocket science people, it all about negotiations and as they say a good negotiation outcome is one in which neither party get 100% of what they want. It’s all about compromises and shifting grounds, understanding the dynamics of the force of demand and supply, understanding the importance of the role of the film maker, understanding that the films distributor is the link bridge between the film maker and the consumers. I think if the film makers are willing to accept the realities on ground and find a common ground like I describe above, everyone will smile to the bank.
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