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Nigeria, still paradise for piracy

Going by a survey carried out by Informa and Telecoms Company, it was discovered that till date, piracy has cost “technology over 35 billion dollars…

Going by a survey carried out by Informa and Telecoms Company, it was discovered that till date, piracy has cost “technology over 35 billion dollars in lost revenue. In the world of technology, many known firms like Microsoft, HP, Nokia, etc., have lost tremendous revenue to piracy. The United States, with the lowest piracy rate in the world (21 per cent) has lost over $6.9 billion to piracy and is still losing revenue to a scourge that is threatening major businesses in that country. China, with a piracy rate of 86 per cent, recorded the highest loss of $3.9 billion with France following with a piracy rate of 47 per cent and a loss of $3.2 billion.” Of all countries in the world, Nigeria tops the ladder as the highest with 82%. Going by their statistics, four of every five original works are pirated.

It is recorded that annually, software producers like other producers, partners and consumers, lose billions of dollars to piracy, which adversely cripples the local industries and the nation’s economy in terms of increased unemployment level and depriving the government of some of its tax revenues.

According to analysis, if piracy is reduced by 10% over a four-year period, not less than 2.4 million new job opportunities will be created. The global software piracy level is presently rated at about 35%, which equates almost $40 billion per year. But in Nigeria, it stands at over 82%, bringing it to a loss of $100 million.

In 2007, there was a massive campaign war against piracy with government bodies like the Strategic Action Against Piracy (STRAP) merging with private sector bodies like PMAN, Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the American Embassy, to combat the epidemic. Despite these statistics and efforts, traders and consumers alike seem to have a justification for enhancing piracy.

A major ‘consumer’ of books and DVDs, Chike Anyanwu, asked, “where can I get original copies of motivational books in Nigeria at affordable prices? I cannot afford to buy them and cinemas which should supplement are something else with their rates. If I can pay to go to Silverbird Cinema or Ceddi Plaza to watch a movie, I might as well go and buy the original copies, but I can’t. I prefer to download them or buy whatever it is I can find in the market.

“I agree with the notion that piracy is outright robbery. It is the intellectual work of somebody that is being duplicated illegally. But in my opinion, publishers, musicians, producers and their entire team have not helped matters,” he said.

Dotun Bamidele, a major dealer in CDs and DVDs, has a problem locating the major source from where he can buy original CDs without fake ones. “I sell CDs and DVDs, and most times, I have to buy my Nigerian CDs and those of other African artists from Europe, the United States or South Africa whenever I travel. I used to have somebody who bring them to my shop, but some of my customers kept complaining that they bought fake copies. When I checked, I confirmed it was true and had to stop dealing with him. It is only recently that somebody directed me to another dealer from whom I buy originals. If I were not persistent, what would I have done given my situation?

“I ask myself why should anybody pirate the brainwork of another person? I think it is an inhuman act. For somebody to sit through sleepless nights and produce works whether masterpieces or not and then one man stays somewhere and downloads them onto his computer or starts waxing CDs from an already pirated CD… It just baffles me how people do things like this. For a while, I couldn’t and probably still can’t tell a pirated copy from an original one. The certificate of authenticity is now being very well pirated and the packaging very presentable. In my opinion, the regulatory bodies are not doing anything at all in this regard asides occupying an office space. If they are doing something, it is at the most minimal level or on paper alone,” he said.

Taiwo Yesufu who lives in Abuja, said, “I do not know of any one shop here in Kaduna, Kano or any of the neighbouring cities around here where I can go to buy original CDs of even our own Nigerian artistes, let alone those of the foreign ones. You have individuals like me who have been lured into piracy because they can’t get original copies as they would naturally prefer. I can’t wait forever until I go to Jazzville or Jazz Hole in Lagos to buy my CDs. I buy them from wherever I find them,” he stated.

Another trader, Ifeanyi Uchendu, said he cannot tell the difference between a pirated CD and an original one. “Since I started buying CDs, I have bought them at the same price in different cities. I have never walked into a shop (including the big names) selling CDs and bought a local production for more than N200. If it’s the foreign ones, I pay up to N3,000. Does it then mean I am encouraging piracy? Aside Lagbaja and a few others who have specific locations where one go to get their CDs, I buy from the general market,” he said.

Emmanuel Ado, a Nigerian resident in Ghana and visiting Abuja said, “In Ghana, the citizens are so conscious of the fact that piracy is a crime and if you are caught, you will be dealt with mercilessly. But that is a society where people have been raised with a lot of discipline.

“If you as much as try to burn a CD and your next-door neighbour sees you without knowing what the purpose is, he is likely to report you to the authorities. Can you imagine that in Nigeria, almost after the Staples Center Memorial for Michael Jackson took place, we already had copies of the DVD? If in Nigeria we too could begin to practise this, it would go a long way in curbing the crime,” he said.

In a report by Efem Nkanga, Akeem Aponmade, spokesperson for BSA at a recent anti-piracy campaign launch, “the information technology (IT) and software sector of the nation is such that 82% which accounts for about 18 million dollars is lost in revenue to piracy. This lost revenue could have been deployed to support the local IT and telecoms industry.

“To tackle piracy, some measures have to be taken. These measures include the identification, licensing and accreditation of resellers, distributors and end users. This will go a long way to reduce the scourge of piracy in Nigeria. Another measure would be for law enforcement agents, in collaboration with stakeholders desirous of putting an end to the malaise, to go after the producers of the illegal software in Nigeria as opposed to picking up the sellers.

“Arresting the sellers will only minimise but not stop the malaise. The real culprits are those who reproduce the counterfeit software and not the sellers. Another effective measure will be for the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to work hand-in-hand with software distributors in the country accredited to the vendors and declare any software not accredited illegal, with a warning of dire consequences to any who distributes the ones declared illegal.

“The NCC, Customs officials, airport officials, BSA and other agencies, should join hands to fight piracy because it’s a malaise that has cut very deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society. Some stakeholders have pointed accusing fingers at China as the centre of the piracy trade with the connivance of some courier companies, yahoo boys and some Customs officials, who look the other way when these pirated materials are illegally brought into the country. The NCC needs to pay special attention to our border control to ameliorate the scourge. For example, yahoo boys are said to currently use the Cotonou border to bring in pirated copies of Microsoft vista into the country.

The NCC Director General, Mr. Adebambo Adewopo, said, “eradicating piracy can only be done effectively through collaborative efforts. All stakeholders and parties have to be actively involved. The problem of distribution which is a major motivation for piracy has to be addressed. This is the responsibility of rights owners, publishers and producers who should also make provisions in their budget for anti piracy. But many of them do not.”

Adewopo said, “we identified the major avenues for plants which are import and production. Import has practically stopped and we have reduced the number of production plants to 14. Whereas, in the whole of southern Africa there are only two such plants servicing the area. We discovered that Asians now brought in the machinery to produce the items from here. What happens now is that each plant operates like a finger print machine so every CD or DVD has a peculiar identity which can be traced to the plant where it came from. So where there is no such trace, it is a pirated copy. Each line of production of these plants produce about 300, 000 to 500, 000 copies and none has less than three lines.

One of the major problems the NCC faces apart from funding, the DG said, is that, “When we find culprits and are in the process of prosecuting them, the right owners, all of a sudden don’t want it to go to court. We later discovered that the pirates would go behind and ‘settle’ them. Even when we call on the big names in the industry for our campaigns, they ask to be paid for it.”

Acknowledging that the NCC may not have been able to cover every spot and locate each piracy plant as most of them operate underground, he said, Nigerians should realise that piracy is not just a threat to the economy but a matter of national security. “It is linked to organised crime and other such atrocities as it is a big money spinning venture. We have gone to raid some plants and found well armed policemen guarding them. These are all issues that have to be resolved to further enhance what the agency is doing. It is a gradual process but for the first time, Nigerians are being conscious of the evil of piracy and through concerted efforts, we will get there.”