Dubbed “Nollywood,” Nigeria has a flourishing film industry which generates billions of dollars in revenues while creating new stars in the process.
In tandem, a flourishing piracy market serves parts of the population that either can’t or won’t pay for films.
Local authorities and anti-piracy organizations are trying to get a grip on the problem, but that’s not easy. Aside from investigative challenges, there’s also a shortage of basic enforcement resources.
Laptops, Electricity, and Internet Access
These issues were previously recognized by the U.S. embassy in Nigeria, which generously donated 50 laptops and other gadgets to the Nigerian Copyright Commission in 2020. This equipment should help to aid the local fight against online piracy, it reasoned.
The equipment was certainly welcome but the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) recently indicated that the Nigerian Copyright Commission also lacks reliable access to electricity and the Internet. Without these necessities, the laptops are useless.
“Provide more resources, including critical resources such as electricity and Internet access, for the Nigeria Copyright Commission (NCC) online enforcement unit to adequately engage in and sustain efforts to combat piracy in the country,” IIPA urged Nigeria’s government
Police Take Action Against Pirate Sites
It’s clear that tackling online piracy is a challenge in Nigeria. However, according to local media reports, police recently busted several key suspects in one of the largest enforcement actions thus far.
Officers from the Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID) in Alagbon, Lagos, arrested five alleged operators and accomplices with ties to local pirate sites, including noregret.com.ng, 36vibes.com.ng and naijajoy.com.ng.
The police action follows a complaint from actress and filmmaker Toyin Abraham, who discovered that her latest film ‘Malaika’ was illegally distributed through these pirate sites.
Commenting on the news, Lagos police chief Idowu Owohunwa said that an investigation into the alleged crimes eventually led to the five suspects.
“Through these initiatives, the websites of origin of the crime were narrowed down to www.noregret.com.ng which was registered, owned and operated by one Lagos-based Kehinde Iyanda and www.naijajoy.com.ng owned and maintained by one Ogun State -based Adekunle Segun,” Owohunwa said.
The police investigation identified Kehinde Iyanda as a main suspect and the alleged operator of noregret.com.ng. The man was arrested and reportedly admitted that the website was used for online piracy.
“He additionally acknowledged that the website was, as alleged, utilized to pirate several movies including the ‘Malaika’ movie as alleged by the complainants,” the police boss added.
Panic Attacks and Hospital Visits
The police action must come as a relief for Toyin Abraham, who reportedly suffered panic attacks as the result of online piracy, which led her to be hospitalized several times.
Abraham said that she’s committed to taking up the fight against online piracy, not just for herself, but also in the broader interest of the Nigerian entertainment industry.
While Kehinde was seen as the main suspect at noregret.com.ng, he didn’t act alone. The operator identified Adebiyi Sodiq and Sodiq Oseni Akano as co-conspirators, which prompted a follow-up investigation.
More Arrests and a Fugitive
The police eventually located Adebiyi Sodiq in Osun State, where he was arrested. The suspect conspired with his mother to hide evidence, including a laptop, but this was eventually uncovered by the police.
In addition, Sodiq also stands accused of running yet another streaming platform, 36vibes.com.ng, which distributed films including ‘Malaika’ and ‘A Tribe Called Judah.’ The makers of the latter had also filed a complaint in the past.
The third suspect, Sodiq Oseni Akano, received help from his girlfriend to evade the police. This was successful, as he is still on the run. His girlfriend and the mother of Adebiyi Sodiq were arrested, however.
Sites Remain Available
In addition to the two alleged site operators and their female accomplices, the police apprehended Adekunle Segun, the alleged operator of yet another pirate site; naijajoy.com.ng. This site also had a link to the ‘Malaika’ movie, according to the authorities.
Overall, three men were arrested for operating pirate sites. The two women were arrested for allegedly acting as accomplices by helping their son/boyfriend to evade prosecution.
All in all, the Nigerian police managed to pull off one of the largest anti-piracy swoops in recent history, at least locally.
While rightsholders are pleased with the action, it’s not yet clear whether it will have a lasting effect. At the time of writing, all three sites remain online, apparently offering a wide range of pirated content.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.