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Is the war against piracy in Africa impossible to win?

The atmosphere in the room was tensed and the panelists weren’t smiling. Members of the Mobile West Africa 2015 audience were on the edge of their seats as everyone, almost everyone, set other stuff aside to concentrate fully on the issue being discussed – content piracy in Africa.

Dolapo Taiwo, Partenr, Unotech Media the company behind mymusic.com.ng – a platform seeking to take the on-demand music scene in Africa by storm set the ball rolling when he pitched the idea behind the soon-to-be-launched startup. Unlike similar on-demand services such as Spinlet, mymusic allows users to pay for music with their phone credit.

According to Taiwo, the battle against content piracy in the music industry in Africa has been launched and the best that stakeholders can do is to provide much easier, legitimate and affordable options for those seeking legitimate sources to get music online.

“The pirates are currently winning the market now. When you are stuck in traffic in Lagos, you will see people selling DVDs of movies that are not yet available. Online you will see that there are more blogs that have songs for free than those that are selling them legitimately,” he said.

Don’t blame music fans

Prior to the emergence of platforms such as Spinlet, it was almost impossible to legally get music in Nigeria — the situation is the same for several other African countries. For the musicians, if people cannot easily get their music, they cannot get popular and this means there will not be shows and endorsements. This is why they usually send their songs to blogs such as NotJustOk.com which in turn put the songs up for free download.

The bloggers attract large traffic which is transformed into large revenues from advertising, and the musicians can become popular. This is what the system is familiar with. Any attempt to change this by asking people to pay for music has not been highly successful. One of such failed attempts is iROKO Partners’ iROKing music streaming service.

Even with the emergence of Spinlet — which seems to be the most successful so far in Nigeria, Oyebowale Akindeinde, Head of Business Development at Spinlet, said musicians are still not fully embracing the opportunity to make money from the sale of their music online.

“We have cases where we ask musicians to give us exclusive rights for the online distribution of their songs only to find out the same musicians have sent tracks on the album to blogs,” he said.

The experts agreed content piracy on the continent is growing because contents are much easier to get from the pirates than from the legal distributors. A good example is mymusic’s goal of allowing music lovers to be able to buy music they want within three clicks although the process seems laborious — you would first find the song you want from the archive, select mobile payment option, an SMS is sent to you with a link, you then click and is subsequently downloaded. Compare this to what you have to do to download Timi Dakolo’s latest song Wish Me Well.

NotJustOK.com shares links to posts on the blog via social media. What you just have to do is to click the link to the song right from your Facebook timeline and when you are on the page, click the download link and you get the music in an incredible simple single step – and for free!

This is why Akindeinde believes that for now, legal music distributors will continue to cohabit with those that pirate music and the blogs. This he said will go until the right atmosphere is created for people to legally purchase music.

“For now we can only provide music lovers with legitimate alternatives. We need to create the atmosphere because I believe it is not that people don’t want to pay to purchase music, they do, we only have to make it very convenient for them to do so,” he said.

He added that piracy thrives when the desired service is not readily available. This he said will continue to thrive until everyone is reached with easier and affordable legal options.

There is still hope

In his remark, Bastian Gotter, Co-Founder of iROKO Partners believe the war against piracy has not been totally lost in Africa. In fact, he said there is hope and a bright future is ahead for legal content producers and distributors on the content.

According to Gotter, it would take from 10 to 15 years for the industry to win the competition with piracy and to allow content creators to earn revenues from their contents. To achieve these, he said lots of awareness and sensitization should be carried out and legal access to contents should be improved – these are in addition to disruptive innovations that would serve as game changers.

Author | Paul Adepoju

Paul Adepoju
Paul Adepoju is a media entrepreneur, published author and award-winning Nigeria-based freelance journalist. He speaks regularly at major African technology events including NigeriaCom and Nigeria eHealth Forum. More

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