From Hollywood to Nollywood

An industry affected significantly by the rise of globalisation is that, of film and production. Global films with transnational appeal are produced in various countries across the globe, but it is Nollywood films produced in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, that are, perhaps, the most intriguing.

Established in the mid 1990’s, Nollywood was inspired by African traditional travelling theatres. Nollywood films are made direct to video and, as such, are never screened in cinemas. In 2007, Nigeria’s film industry produced 1687 films, making it the third largest film industry in the world, in terms of volume and production rates. Thus, it seems that while the business of film production has spanned wider than Hollywood and the American film industry itself, the cinematic experience remains somewhat localised. If this is the case, what makes possible, the retention of such great popularity regarding Nollywood films?

The argument in the University of Alberta’s ‘Spectatorship, Audience and the Sites of Consumption’, is that outside of Nigeria, and indeed Africa, Nollywood is still largely a curiosity but within its borders, the Nigerian film industry has had nothing but success, after unanticipated success. Often, these movies are completed in a week with a budget of no more than $20,000.The films draw upon traditional characters and events inspired by dramas from other such countries, as Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico, in which, they produce soap operas titled Telenovelas. Nollywood films play on this structure, with a mix of melodrama and culture. Perhaps what makes the popularity of Nollywood films so isolated, is the television aesthetic, of which, the films adopt, appearing more on the side of an extended length television show, than a typical feature film. Nonetheless, the films remain popular within Africa, with the average film selling more than 50,000 physical copies.

“It’s born out of passion. We are using what we have to tell our stories and get it out there,” says British- Nigerian film director and founder of Blu Star Entertainment, Michelle Bello.

Despite the rapid growth and success of the Nollywood film industry, there is one major downfall. With films being produced solely for immediate transfer to DVD, this enhances the possibility for piracy. An estimated $1 billion is lost to piracy each year, with bootleg copies of a film often hitting the streets within hours of its release. The World Bank estimates that for every 10 Nigerian movies sold, only one is a legitimate sale.

In order to rectify these losses, the Nigerian Copyright Commission is working to reform a law that governs the ways, in which, filmmakers and producers can be compensated for the loss of profit from their art and intellectual property.

With unprecedented acceptability in Nigeria and across Africa, it is only a matter of time before globalisation influences the popularity of Nigerian films worldwide. Soon Nollywood films will become, not a curiosity, but a widely accepted style of film and production, increasing profitability for production companies, and, in turn, increasing revenue for the film industry in Nigeria.

The ‘Blurred Lines’ of Copyright Laws

In 2015, musicians, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were challenged by the family of Motown legend, Marvin Gaye, in relation to a copyright infringement in their 2013 hit, “Blurred Lines”. The Gaye family claimed that the pair had stolen the tune form Marvin Gaye’s 1977 track “Got to give it up”.

However, following an appeal from the duo, the judge cut their copyright infringement verdict by more than $2 million. This occurred on the basis that  “a ‘groove’ or ‘feeling’ cannot be copyrighted”, as, was argued by Thicke and Williams. This case has transfixed the music world because it raises questions as to when a song can be considered plagiarized and when it merely serves as inspiration.

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Original Meme

The dispute brings about the notion of intellectual property rights. Before copyright anyone could freely copy, modify, or sell content. Before copyright, the notion of property related only to owning land with the thought of owning ideas considered absurd. Now days this is almost impossible, with industries and corporations seeking control over content, ideas and all possible uses of information, rendering the thought of a copyright free world, a thing of the past.