Piracy: How Nollywood is bleeding money

With annual revenues numbering in the hundreds of millions (in US dollars), Nollywood has become the Nigeria’s largest private employer. It serves as a “model of entrepreneurial achievement” in a country plagued by corruption and rent-seeking.

READ MORE: WHO IS Ken Nnebue: Father of Nollywood?

For first time, African stories told by Africans can be shared by audiences across the continent. That Nigerian films regularly outsell Hollywood imports made with far higher budgets and more sophisticated production values testifies to the hunger of African consumers for a genuinely popular medium of expression.

How does Nollywood work?

Nollywood films are made by a decentralized network of producers who operate at extremely low cost using rudimentary equipment.

A budget of $50,000 and production calendar of four weeks from script to final release are not uncommon. Over 90% of revenues come from sales of physical media routed through four central market hubs and then resold across Nigeria and beyond.

Films are sold for roughly $2, and sales average anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 authorized copies per film, with the occasional blockbuster surpassing one million copies.

How piracy is affecting nollywood?

Funding and distribution of Nollywood films is dominated by shadowy
guilds of “marketers” who operate through informal networks that originally served to smuggle pirated copies of foreign movies.

Example of store that sell pirated nollywood movies.

As a result, although it has grown into a billion dollar, global industry, Nollywood still operates almost entirely through informal mechanisms.

Cash predominates over credit.

Trust relationships replace contracts. Copyright formalities are ignored.

Instead, Nollywood guilds enforce order through informal disciplinary measures and actively discourage recourse to formal legal institutions.

Accurate records of sales and revenues are impossible to obtain.

Nor it is easy to establish who holds the rights to a given title; fraudulent sales agents abound.

While Nollywood’s reliance on pirate networks gave it far greater
reach than conventional distribution channels could have achieved, piracy
today is the industry’s Achilles heel. Unauthorized copies of Nollywood films usually appear within a couple weeks and cannibalize sales.

Anywhere from 60–80 % of revenues may be diverted in this fashion.

Pirate sales likely account for an even greater percentage of international revenues. Unauthorized distribution of Nollywood films occur even in developed country markets that have functioning copyright regimes.

Because filmmakers reap only a fraction of the total revenue that their movies generate, the industry suffers from chronic underinvestment.

Lack of copyright protection also introduces perverse incentives.

Filmmakers are forced to mass produce films at a breakneck schedule to stay ahead of the pirates. Slapdash productions featuring formulaic plots, wooden acting, and crude production values are the predictable result.

Credit for this article

This article is based on research work published by Sean A. Pager of Michigan State University College of Law.

Photo Credit

Feature was taken by it’s me neosiam on Pexels.

Comment in the box below or send messages to info at shugaban dot com.

Leave a Reply