Sunday, March 27, 2011

Piracy: Filmmakers Cry For Help

“Since the hunters have learnt to shoot without missing, we will also learn to fly without perching,” says a popular African adage. Such appears to be the resolve of the Hausa film makers under the auspices of Film Protection Image Association as they paid a courtesy call on the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) in an effort to voice out their feelings and yearnings on how to curb the menace of piracy in the movie industry.
Earlier, a popular actor, Ali Nuhu, who was among the entourage, congratulated the new director-general of the commission on assuming office as the commander-in-chief to drive the fight against pirates. He said the new DG has a lot of challenges ahead and pledged that the Hausa filmmakers are ready to work with the commission in order to annihilate the peril of piracy in the industry. The Kannywood screen guru, Nuhu, gave an insight on how the pirates make money out of filmmakers’ sweat without their sole authorisation. “We feel the time has come for us to visit your esteemed organisation and voice out our feelings about piracy and how it affects our business so that your commission will come to our rescue by tackling the problem,” he said.
Also speaking, the Secretary-General of the Film Protection Image Association, Alhaji Bashir Fagge took his time to read the problems faced by the Kannywood stakeholders out of piracy. He said, although the Hausa film industry is in incubation stage, the stakeholders have been in the fore front to diversify its capital base. Noting that the hand of the clock is fast ticking against pirates, their cronies and activities. And with the launch of his organisation’s battle against piracy, the much-awaited succour for the creators of intellectual properties to enjoy the fruits of their labour may have finally arrived.
The activities of pirates, according to Fagge, have continued to make copyright owners live in penury. Efforts at tackling this menace gave birth to different programmes by NCC, the most recent was the Strategic Action Against Piracy (STRAP), launched a few years back. However, he pointed out that the Hausa filmmakers, without support from government and corporate ogranisations, make waves in the industry and contribute a lot in securing jobs to the teeming youths in the society, therefore, need to be protected. The secretary also shed more light on how some pirates go about announcing that they are fully registered with the commission.
In his remarks, The director-general, NCC, who was represented by the Director, Public Affairs of the commission, Sir Charles Olisaeloka Obi, assured the stakeholders that NCC would look into details of various issues raised by the Hausa filmmakers and advised them that those who have issues with staff of the commission should get in touch with him. Obi expressed delight that a lot of issues that formed the basis of the vision of his administration have been brought forward by the stakeholders and described his stay in the commission as a new era in the copyright system in Nigeria.
The DG announced that the focus of his administration would be a more proactive NCC that would commit reasonable resources to enforcement. Obi observed that why stakeholders had little or no confidence in the commission was because the focus was probably different and stated that his focus would be to hunt criminals, prosecute and send them to jail. He added that NCC cannot achieve its goals without the support of the stakeholders and commended them for their collaboration in anti piracy activities and prosecution.
Responding on some of the petitions submitted by the Kannywood group, the director said, “We are working hand in hand with the custom to curb the pirates, those who import pirated works into the country and recently, we have arrested a man who rebranded himself as King of Pirates, we are taking him to court and we shall follow the case to the logical conclusion. The commission is doing its best to fight the menace; at the importation level, we are there at the production level we shall also see to it.”
He said, “I advise the Hausa filmmakers to work with the law enforcement agents in curbing the pirates. First of all, try and identify where the pirates are, launch an attack and arrest them. That is what we are also doing, we cannot be everywhere. So if you arrest them, hand them over to us and see what we can do. That is the collaboration we are seeking from you and I am happy, you came in here under one umbrella with different fields of expertise. There are actors, producers, marketers, directors, etc; that is team work and I believe with collaborative minds, we shall curb the pirates. I therefore commend you stick together and assure you that there will be positive results in this anti-piracy campaign.”
While responding on allegations about some members of NCC who go about taking honorarium from the filmmakers, the DG said, “To the best of my knowledge as a director in this commission, I have been among the management staff of this organisation and we have never demanded for any money to do our work. It is strange, I have never heard of it both here in the headquarters nor any of zonal offices. And please if you can give information on where this happened we can issue a query immediately. We don’t take gratification, we don’t take honourarium, we don’t take bribes and if any of our staff did that, please report immediately to us and we will take action. This commission has a good reputation, no individual can spoil it to put money in his pocket.”
Mr. Charles explained further about the commission’s shortcomings, “You see, we are actually not adequately staffed here, but we are doing our best within the limited resources we have. Let me quickly say that we have presence in Kano, we have in Bauchi, Kaduna, Yola, Makurdi. So the new DG in a few weeks will embark on visits to the north, he will come and see you one -on-one and I will also advise you to congregate just as you did with more of your members in the places he will visit, so that some of these things you will directly talk to him. But before then, he will get this report and be assured that this commission will work with you hand in hand in achieving its stated objectives,” he stated.
He reiterated that the main motive behind the commission was to support a market-driven telecommunications industry and promote universal access. We will achieve this through the consistent enforcement of clear and fair policies that protect stakeholders, ensure efficient resource management, share industry best practices and deliver affordable, quality telecom services.

Published March 19, 2011

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