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Nigeria pop star 2Face Idibia calls for crackdown on pirates

By Emily Wither, for CNN
December 6, 2011 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Music piracy in Nigeria is a widespread problem
  • Music star 2Face says the police need to enforce tougher sanctions for pirates
  • A top Nigerian music producer says better education is needed to fight piracy

(CNN) -- Nigeria's music industry is flourishing. However, it faces a big threat -- the scourge of piracy.

But the tide is changing, say the country's top music stars, who are stepping up efforts to reform the industry and are putting pressure on the government to crackdown on pirates.

One of Nigeria's most celebrated artists is among those calling for action to stamp out the problem.

"Piracy is still a very massive issue because there is no control in terms of producing the CDs and no barcodes. You don't even know where it is coming from," said hip-hop and RnB star Innocent Idibia, popularly known as 2Face.

Sounds of the Ngoni

Idibia is no stranger to the international scene and his music has won him a string of awards both at home and abroad.

But while he has been recognized for his work he feels that back home there is a lack of respect for artists and that the police do not view piracy as a serious crime.

"A policeman might be standing here, someone might be selling pirated copies over there and he wouldn't even look at it as though someone is committing a crime and he might even buy one!" he said.

"They love the music, they want to listen to it, they dance to it, they buy the pirated copies, but the respect for the actual intellectual property is not there," he continued.

Only a decade ago, there were only one or two compact disc production plants. Today there are 28 in operation and the country has its own copyright commission, the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC).

According to the latest Strategic Action Against Piracy report released in 2011 from the NCC, piracy of CDs, VCDs, DVDs cost just over $3.5 million a year.

Mozambique's music stars

But despite the increase in popularity and availability of discs, the CEO of one of West Africa's leading media and entertainment companies thinks piracy is hindering the country's success on the international stage.

"When the international majors were in Nigeria they never invested in the back end of the industry, so there is no formal distribution in place," said Obi Asika, founder of Storm 360.

"There needs to be major investment into distribution and we are speaking to some of the major fulfillment companies," he continued. "The key issue is that Nigerian businesses need to recognize that this is a significant opportunity which might be worth over a couple of billion dollars a year."

Nigeria's YouTube poet

Asika believes that the mobile industry could be the key place to push African music legitimately. He is helping to launch Spinlet, a music download service going live in December.

"We have over 90 million mobiles in Nigeria and over 40 million are in the youth space. The key issues facing the industry are the need to build a proper touring platform, a live scene, and also for major companies and government to begin to pay for the use of music across all platforms," he said.

"We think Spinlet will make a major impact in terms of getting real revenues back to artists, labels, producers and managers returns on their music," he added.

Education, communication, campaign - if you do not educate people you cannot expect them to know there is a real problem.
Obi Asika, founder Storm 360

Last year the industry decided to close ranks and establish the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) to give advice to artists about copyright and licensing their music.

The collective also promotes the rights of artists and acts as an industry watchdog.

The NCC and COSON are backing Storm 360 to release an anti-piracy song early next year as part of a wider national campaign.

Asika hopes that artists like 2Face will get involved to help educate music fans about the problem of piracy.

"Education, communication, campaign -- if you do not educate people you cannot expect them to know there is a real problem," he said.

Idibia says the issue of piracy is even more aggravating considering the difficulties Nigerian artists face in getting their music to market. He compares the emergence of artists in Africa to "rose flowers growing from rocks."

But he says the good thing about the African music scene is artists are not afraid to speak up for what they believe in, which could help improve their rights.

"The trend is we get ourselves involved in everything that affects our lives and we speak out. We talk about it," he said.

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