by Habeeb Kolade
A recent outburst by 9ice against the appearance, without permission, of his works on blogs already tells the story of how much piracy have eaten into the society. It is disgustful that one could easily download many artistes’ full album on entertainment and gossip blogs without paying a dime.
FIRST THINGS FIRST! A thief is a thief, whether dressed in hoods and clutching guns or in corporate suits with a briefcase and in this case, a turntable. Without remorse or restraint, I assert that most radio and TV stations should be held culprit of intellectual property theft. It is as simple as that. These radio stations have been feeding off the hard work of most Nigerian artistes and are sending nothing in return to them. In Nigeria, artistes no longer depend on their albums for returns on their songs; most totally depend on shows and for the few established ones, endorsements from corporate companies who use them to boost their sales.
A quick survey has even revealed that several upcoming artists have had to pay through their noses to have their works aired on the radio waves by many radio stations and when they do not meet up with the demand, they have their works pulled off their lists of tracks reeled out to the audience. If playing songs for free is theft, what would we call a situation when you even demand money from artistes whose works you use? It is like a hungry beggar demanding to be paid to eat a meal you have offered him. Severally, we have seen artistes complain bitterly about album pirates who sell pirated copies of their works for ridiculous prices and rip them of the benefits they should accrue from the rigours of producing such works, but most, maybe due to ignorance or desperation, have overlooked the radio stations who pirate their works and accrue several millions at the end of the year from using artistes’ works to keep listeners from changing the dial. Due to piracy, most artistes cannot provide any accurate statistics on how successful the sale of their albums especially to help detail their progress.
It is quite true that the state of the country has worsened things for most artistes. I was listening to a particular radio station one day when an artiste thanked the radio station for playing her song so much so that she stayed glued to the radio station to hear it play again. It is like being robbed and praying earnestly to be robbed again. Unfortunately too, most artistes do not know their rights and are mostly operating illegally too. Many of these artistes also download pirated copies of songs, use pirated software on their computers in their studios. Many use foreign instrumentals for their songs and do not pay a dime for it while some barely even produce original CDs for people to buy. Most artistes produced their music very cheaply and sometimes through dubious means and their request for remittance when their works are used is the case of the proverbial local kettle calling the local pot black (people have begun to refer to electric kettles now). You easily find artistes in Nigeria who are not ready to work hard to make their albums successful or ready to invest well to produce high quality songs and are even happy with the lift the radio stations are offering them to success and the free attention they get from it too. You see many producing poor quality songs both in content and context and you wonder why Nigeria deserves such poor music. Many artistes are not even registered and therefore are operating illegally. Lobatan!
The fight against piracy goes beyond fighting the Alaba boys that breach copyright to make and sell CDs “on behalf” of artistes. It includes radio stations that air people’s work without remuneration and television stations for playing videos without payment. It is important to understand that artistes are being robbed daily and that the media houses are the worst culprits; yeah, and followed by the bloggers!
It should also be of note that these media houses are infringing on rights not only locally but internationally as there are barely any stations that pay to use foreign music. But it is easier to rob the foreign artistes from such a distance that they would not notice. However, coming back home, you would easily see artistes whose works are in every nook and cranny, jamming on loud speakers, playing on every iPods and mp3s, rave on as much radio stations but having peanuts to show for it; the older generation of artistes being the worst victims.
A recent outburst by 9ice against the appearance, without permission, of his works on blogs already tells the story of how much piracy have eaten into the society. It is disgustful that one could easily download many artistes’ full album on entertainment and gossip blogs without paying a dime. While these bloggers amass wealth from adverts due to the awesome traffic they get by stealers who also want to download hundreds of songs for free, sometimes crashing those sites, the artistes are at home with nothing to show for it and praying that a show comes up or a telecommunication company or any company at all find them worthy to grace their posters. In the case where this artist does not get to be invited for numerous shows or be identified by a giant telecommunication company, he would continue to work in futility while people enjoyed his work with pay. He soon fizzles out especially if he is one that quits.
Therefore, COSON is right in every right to demand that artistes, especially the ones registered to it, must be paid royalties for the use of their works by media houses. However, the protest by IBON and BON that COSON should set out regulated charges for the royalties also stand true. The effect of these structures might not be immediate but on the long run, artistes would realize how much they have been robbed over the years and would not have to wait for a certain company’s endorsements or shows to be able to fend for themselves. COSON should however be diplomatic in its approach at resolving the decay thus ensuring that progress is made and not damages. And everyone must engage in the battle against piracy; from the listeners who want free music, to the bloggers who pirate songs and offer for free, to the Alaba boys who pirate songs and sell for returns, to the radio stations who pirate songs to attract listeners, to the artists who employ pirated materials to produce his works. All hands must be on deck to eliminate this evil that ensures artistes who work very hard get peanuts in return. Meanwhile, the battle against piracy might not be won in a night but we must take the first step.
Habeeb Kolade tweets from @Habeeb_X
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.