The Story of Nollywood, Nigerias Movie Industry (1)

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In the USA, the movie industry is known as Hollywood. In India, it is Bollywood. In Nigeria, it is Nollywood.Ghana, another West African country, has followed suit, branding its own, Gollywood. So how has the …woods in Africa fared compared to the advanced movie industries in AmericaandAsia. Let us begin with  Nollywood.

It started in 1992 with the movie, Living in Bondage, shot in Igbo language and subtitled in English.  From that one movie in 1992, Nigeria’s Nollywood has grown tremendously into a multimillion dollar industry that now turns out an average of 40 movies every month. Any problems.

Plenty. The biggest is piracy. And how far has branding helped to make the intellectual property market inNigeriasafe for intellectual property owners to reap the full rewards of their efforts? Not really as they expected. They have failed to integrate protection measures in their branding strategies. Their products are faked, pirated, and counterfeited; illegally produced, used and sold; and are passed on to the ignorant public who in most cases, cannot distinguish between the “original,” and the “fake” products.

Pirates and counterfeiters are on the rampage inNigeria, virtually unchecked, killing creativity and enterprise, and causing misery for owners of copyrighted works, some of whom are now poor, while these fraudsters smile to the banks. The trauma of piracy and counterfeiting onNigeria’s reforming economy is unquantifiable. It’s estimated that music piracy alone, cost the Nigerian intellectual property industry $50 million in 2004, and bootlegged materials are readily available on the streets of many cities.

The hardest hit are owners of copyrighted works such as authors, writers, musicians, artistes, content providers, film/movie makers, computer software owners, entertainment professionals,  home video and soap opera producers and marketers. They are struggling against all odds in the difficult Nigerian environment which is offering them little protection for their copyrighted works, while allowing pirates and counterfeiters to roam freely and operate unhindered.

The Nigerian Copyright Commission has been waging a consistent war against piracy and counterfeiting, with the programme branded, Strategic Action Against Piracy (STRAP). But victory is not yet in sight. Piracy is killing the creativity and enterprise of intellectual property owners and impoverishing them.

Can proper branding strategies help them?  Professionals advise that the power of a brand in the market is directly related to the legal protection of the trademark. Therefore, any artiste that desires to be competitive and maintain or improve its own image in the market must adopt an international intellectual property (IP) strategy in order to have a strong trademark.

But something has to be done, by all stakeholders inNigeria: corporate and individual to save the copyright industry from collapse, and to empower intellectual property owners reap the full benefits of their creative enterprise.  This move can unleash the creative potentials of hundreds of talented  Nigerian artistes, musicians, writers, movie producers, and software programmers, and usher in prosperity for them and reduce unemployment.

This dream is far from being realized for now because, piracy still persists while intellectual property owners are complaining loudly. Apparently, nobody is listening. Though the NCC is hot on the heels of pirates, they are not bruised, while intellectual property owners are shortchanged. Many of them, despite successful placing in music and movie charts remain poor. How severe is the pain?

Consider these:

  • Prince Nico Mbarga, whose best selling record, Sweet Mother, swept the whole of the African continent in the 80s, died a poor man as pirates’ reaped the benefits of his intellectual property.
  • The home video (movie) industry is awash with pirated copies of films that find their way into various local and international markets. Producers and marketers of such films are not adequately compensated.
  • Pirated and counterfeit goods create losses for the economy, government, loss of jobs, and loss of export opportunities for Nigerian enterprises especially in the ECOWAS sub-region

Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com

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