IrokoTV in Nasty Intellectual Property Infringement Crossfire with Tomi Adesina

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Nollywood film on-demand company, IrokoTV has been caught in the throes of an intellectual property infringement. The owner of the intellectual property in question is award-winning writer and blogger, Ms. Tomi Adesina, who was recently nominated for the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Award (AMVCA) for the movie/TV series, Hakkunde.

IrokoTV is a part of iROKO Partners which is one of Africa’s leading entertainment companies, housing brands such as iROKING, an online music platform and its YouTube website, Nollywoodlove. Iroko also has channels on DSTV, GoTV and SkyTV (UK).

In a Twitter thread, Tomi Adesina shared her situation with the rest of the world.

According to her, between 5th June, 2014 and 4th September, 2014, she consistently published a fiction series titled “Beautiful Stranger” on her blog at https://tomiadesina.wordpress.com/beautiful-stranger-2/ . By 2015, she had published the aforesaid fiction series as an eBook online at https://dl.orangedox.com/z6KFmVmsGQ6qXwZOQ6 .

Sometime this year, Ms. Adesina received numerous calls from her friends, family and ardent readers of her blog, congratulating her for collaborating with IrokoTV to adapt her 2014 story, “Beautiful Stranger” into a movie called “Swings” and monetising/distributing same on IrokoTV platforms.

Ms. Adesina was rather surprised at the felicitations as she did not adapt her “Beautiful Stranger” story into a movie, and she did not authorize IrokoTV to distribute or monetize same. “I was really taken aback by the calls and congratulations because of course, I did not contract Iroko or anyone at all to adapt this story into a movie and I never gave Iroko the permission to monetize the distribution of the movie,” she says.

To see for herself, Ms. Adesina decided to download the IrokoTV app, pay the requested fee and watch the movie. Her discovery after the movie left her perplexed. “It was like a bunch of actors came together, acted my blog series and then, gave it a different title,” she says.

Apparently, the only difference between “Beautiful Stranger” and “Swings” is the title as Ms. Adesina confirmed that the storyline, characters, setting and even dialogue are exact mirrors of the other.

Upset by this development, Ms. Adesina instructed her lawyers to write to IrokoTV, demanding a retraction/removal of the unauthorized movie adaptation from their platforms. IrokoTV retorted by saying they didn’t produce the movie themselves and hence, did/have not remove(d) the movie from their platform.

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Ms. Adesina believes that IrokoTV’s excuse is absurd. “I write for the movie industry,” she says. “So I know that IrokoTV’s claim is not true as the movie “Swings” opened with their montage. Movie production companies only put their montage in movies if they produced, co-produced or sponsored/partnered with the movie one way or another. There are many movies on IrokoTV’s different platforms that do not start with their opening montage because IrokoTV did not produce, co-produce or sponsor/partner with the said movies, unlike “Swings”. I took my time to confirm with a number of films on their app. Apart from producing/sponsoring or partnering with the movie, I know that the distribution, publication and/or commercialization of the unauthorized movie adaptation is in itself, an infringement of my copyright.”

The Copyright Act, Cap 28 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, prohibits the unauthorized adaptation of an author’s work and the unauthorized publication or distribution of the said work or the adapted copy. Anybody who does either of the foregoing acts is independently liable for intellectual property infringement.

“This should stop.” She continues, “ the dream of every writer is to adapt their story into a movie one day and show it to the world. It’s like seeing your story come to life before your eyes. I am no different, but IrokoTV has killed this dream as it pertains to “Beautiful Stranger”, a story very close to my heart.”

Ms. Adesina concluded by saying she had instructed her lawyers to commence civil and criminal proceedings against IrokoTV and its directors, pursuant to the Copyright Act, 2004.

In a Twitter thread of his own, Jason Njoku, CEO of IrokoTV asserted that the movie ‘Swings’ was produced by a Ghanaian producer DEO Studio / Daniel Edah Production. The film was set in Ghana with an all Ghanaian cast. Neither ROK Studios nor @irokotv were a part of the actual production of the movie ‘Swings’, and ROK Studios never saw a script.

He concluded by saying, “To clarify, and in no uncertain terms, ROK did not produce the movie. Twitter is not the forum for such discussions, nevertheless, we are happy to continue this conversation offline with @tomi_adesina We remain committed to fighting piracy and wholly refute any claims otherwise.

The ordeals of Ms. Adesina are rather unfortunate and they mirror what several relatively unknown writers suffer in the hands of big players in the industry. The lawsuit may have been partially misdirected as IrokoTV only distributed the movie, whereas Daniel Edah Productions produced and directed it, nevertheless, an intellectual property infringement has occurred and justice should be served.

XploreNollywood will be closely following this story and will give updates as they happen.

It is Ms. Adesina’s hope that, her resort to court would serve as a deterrent to others; whoever they may be, that engage in intellectual property infringement.

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