The Menace of Pirates and Piracy in all sphere of the Nigerian Life has eaten deep in to our system. From Beverages, to Fashion to almost every item is been pirated or counterfeited today un-abated. Piracy in Creative Arts Industry is rendering the practitioners bankrupt and the Pirates smiling to the bank. It seems as there is no Solution in sight. But I strongly believe with the cooperation of key stakeholders the Government and all Security Agency, we can smile once again in the Entertainment Industry.
Mega Distribution Companies
Prior to 2014, it was generally believed that the absence of Major Distribution Networks and Models gave room to the Pirates to operate fully, hence, two major companies namely G-Media led by Gab Okoye [Gabosky] and E-Force led by Sola Fajobi opened Shop.
E-Force launched with 12 Major Hubs in key towns in the Southwest and Lagos Regions serving as Regional Distribution Units, 2,800 Sales Outlets/Partners, several Trucks, Buses, Mini Vans and Motorcycles and Experienced Sales Personnel and Activation Teams. However, after two months of Launch, we have the following feedbacks;
• The Sales Outlets were evenly distributed between existing Video Shops and Regular Outlets like Hair Salons, Restaurants, Provision Stores, Supermarkets, Lounges e.t.c. However, most Video Stores are doing 200% Volume than non traditional video stores.
• Consumer Education is seriously required as most Consumers will still buy VCD Part 1 & 2 for N200 each against a single DVD containing the two parts and even more at N400.
• The Pirates version most times comprises of 4 – 7 different movies and still sells for N100 vis a vis each new Original title going for N400 or more.
• Most Consumers do not mind waiting for 2 weeks after release so as to buy the same Original Title at rock bottom price of sometimes N100 or less [They call it Oil or Porta]
• Activation teams usually face challenges of Area Boys and Govt. Agencies disturbing their Sales.
• Most Film Shops still believe they have to go to Alaba to buy their Movies to resell.
• The Distributors in Alaba usually pay the Pirate Leaders some money to give them one month before they Pirate the movies.
• Sales on Return is the order of the day in the industry and re-couping your money from resellers is another major challenge.
• Throughout the Sales Chain, all the practitioners prefer to be informal and are stuck to their conventional practices such that they resist any attempt at improving the processes. Despite all our plans to build a strong process with them such as the regular FMCG’s Style. They seem to think their existing un-organized system is better for them.
Largely, the E-FORCE direction is very similar to the G-MEDIA Approach. There has been a lot of other feedback largely based on the fact that physical DVD Distribution will soon go out of circulation; however, we strongly believe that it will still be relevant for the next 5 – 10 years for two reasons;
1. Required Infrastructure to make it go into extinction is still largely unavailable in this country such as Speed of Internet, Cost of Data Sharing, Fibre Optic e.t.c.
2. The technology that will make CD and DVD go into full extinction has not yet been promoted if it is designed, it is not yet in commercial production.
E-FORCE: In December 2014, just two months after launch, it was discovered that the sales of movies released within the last month has drastically reduced, upon interrogation, we found out that the Pirates have put Six of our movie titles in one single DVD and they are selling for N100. These DVD’s are all over the place and when we engaged the resellers, they confronted our people violently. When we traced it to Alaba, they told us that they have given us one month to sell, so why are we bothering them.
G-MEDIA: Just this week, while G-MEDIA is still putting touches to the launch of October 1st Movie by Kunle Afolayan, the Pirates flooded the market, streets and every corner with their version of the movie. It is on record that they are giving very high margins to the resellers and the movie is a strong one hence, the demand has been very high.
Yoruba Marketers: As at December 2014, Most of the main Yoruba Marketers are releasing only 8,000 copies of VCD of any new movie divided into 4,000 for Part 1 & 2 Apiece. Before then, the minimum release figure is 10,000 copies and sometimes it gets to 100,000 copies depending on the movie. But as at February this year, they are releasing 4000 copies with 2,000 for each part.
Each week, the sales figures from key Distributors and Marketers are dwindling and this is largely due to the serious gap in the market mostly caused by the Pirates, other reasons include DSTV, Other Cable Stations, Terrestrial TV Broadcast of Movies. Internet Broadcast and Downloads and other Data Transfer Gadgets.
How Do Pirates Get The Movies
• Cinema; During Cinema Screenings, the Producer supplies the movie via hard drives and it is sent to all the Cinema Houses, in each Cinema House, while there are some form of control, its largely poor. The Boys in the Control are the regular Lower Cadre Staff that earns Salaries of around N60,000 – N100,000. These Guys can be tempted with as much as N1million to make copies of the Original Versions.
• Online: Most Online Portals will tell you that the content is Encoded and it cannot be downloaded, that’s not completely true, Middle Level I.T. Personnel can download good quality movie without stress.
• DSTV and DSTV Box Office: There are so many ways you can download content from DSTV.
• The Post Production Gap: Editors, and other Post Production Crew Members can also gain access to Original Copy of Works.
• DVD Release: The content can be ripped off the Original DVD and still maintain an almost same level of quality.
The Pirates Chain
• The Don: He has the Money, the Machines and all where withal to get Original Copies, Duplicate and Mass Produce, Print Jackets and everything required. He can also pay for protection under the law. He is the guy at the top that makes everything happen. Remember he did not invest anything serious in the Content, so he is satisfied with the small margins. Meanwhile, he is also doing Mass Production which means cost to him is as low as N50.
• The Mafia: They are the guys that have the Shops and Stalls in Alaba and other places, they are the source of the goods before the retailers. They are the ones that channel the products to the street. They don’t need to have much money, they have shops, they take the goods, distribute and pay back to the Don. They control which jobs moves well and at what price. They control the Street Boys and the Film Shops.
• The Film Shops: At every major junction, market or area, there are strategic film shops that sell every kind of movie. They have Television and Loud Speakers; they sell foreign movies, series, cartoons and every other local content. Mostly, they stock about 10% of Original Works as Cover while they stock 90% Pirated Materials ranging from Music CD, Movies, Series, Cartoon, Children Content e.t.c.
• The Street Boys: With Massive Margins of N100 – N300 on some works, they have enough motivation to bombard the streets and sell 20 – 50 copies in a day. Even an average Banker is not making half of their monthly take home.
• The Consumer: The most important person on this chain. He or She is looking for Value at Cheap Price, they want to be entertained and sometimes not pay for it. They buy, borrow or rent just to get the experience. They really don’t mind if anyone is losing out in as much as their needs are met.
The reality of Piracy is not new, it has bitten so deep into the Creative Arts Industry to the extent that most practitioners are no more interested in the industry and that is why largely you see a lot of Entertainers chasing after Politicians for money.
It is not just about October 1st Movie, it is only the latest, hence our approach cannot just centre on the Movie, however, we can use the movie as a Reference Point for Action. As we are speaking, the Pirates are in production of new works to be released soon.
The proposed approach below can be implemented on the State, Regional or National Level.
The Government Should set up a sustainable institution dedicated and empowered to deal with Piracy and Intellectual Property Theft for Nigerian Works and all Other Foreign or African Content. An Anti Piracy Board or Commission is urgently required by an act of Law with the following mandate; [Please Note; This Commission will tackle Piracy and Generate Income for the Government]
• Registration and Licensing of all Film makers, Marketers, Distributors, Film Shops e.t.c.
• Enforce all Anti-Piracy Laws and ensure Prosecution of Arrested Practitioners
• Eradicate, Ban and Clampdown on all Creative Works sold on the streets and traffic e.t.c. [This will allow us to concentrate efforts on the shops and retailers]
• Design a Code of Conduct for Resellers to include that even Foreign Movies or Works are not sold in shops without licensing. [Interested Distributors can go to secure rights for the distribution of those works from the Hollywood or Bollywood Studios]
• Set Up Undercover Teams to disguise and penetrate the cartel, monitor and take stocks of the Film Stores [The Film Shops can display only Original Copies while still selling the Pirated Ones like Black Market, we can have Agents that will disguise as regular customers]
• Mop Up Alaba, Idumota and Trade Fair and all the Marketers. Relocate the Film Market to a central place i.e. Arena in Oshodi. Let every distributor operate from there in the open glare of the world.
• Make Meaningful Arrest from Bottom Up and ensure Prosecution of all arrested Individuals and Companies.
• Educate Consumers on the ills of buying Pirated Copies and include Punishment on erring Individuals.
• Activate an Orientation Strategy & Campaign using all media touch points to inform and engage consumers
• Design a simple tax scheme on each copy of Movie or Music Sold. This will motivate the Government to track all Sales Activities in the Industry.
• Introduce a Compulsory Bar Code on all C.D.’s working with registered DVD, VCD, CD Manufacturers like Transerve, Nira e.t.c.
• Introduce a Reward System for Whistle blowers i.e. N500,000 for Information leading to arrest of pirates or counterfeiters.
• Introduce a Minimum Fixed Price for Music CD, VCD and DVD. Here a Producer that has a fantastic movie and great promotion will benefit mainly from Volume Sales. When there is a uniform price, Consumers become better aware and will check very well to know they are buying the Original. Where there is lower price, it becomes easy for the Commission to track the price differentials and the source.
• A Weekly Bulletin on all Media Touchpoints for the works released in that week and month.
• Customs Partnership and Monitoring Team to be set up within the Commission to work with Nigerian Customs to track all imported C.D’s, DVD’s e.t.c. either finished or not yet written. Every Importer will be required to give account of how the C.D.’s are used or to be used. Also, we will track all imported finished works of foreign movies and series and other Creative Works.
Of course, the above is not exhaustive, it’s a work in progress and key stakeholders need to meet and proffer additional ideas & directions that will work in the short term and long term.
Sola Fajobi is C.E.O. of Digital Interactive Media Limited, NollywoodR and E-FORCE – A Major Player in The Nigerian Entertainment Distribution Sector.