But How do I Know if It’s Real?

07 October 2009

Copyright infringement of music is rampant in Nigeria.  It may, in fact, be one of the few places where referring to infringement as piracy is truly accurate.  Huge optical disc plants churn out hundreds of thousands of unauthorized copies of cds.  The markets, the street corners, even the shops are filled with these infringing albums, to the point that finding a legitimate album is incredibly difficult.

cd front croppedReal or not?

Artists, producers and the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) have tried a number of methods to mark legitimate albums as such.  Unfortunately, it seems most of these methods are copied by the infringers as soon as they’re developed. 

There’s the Hologram Scheme (part of the Strategic Action Against Piracy program) through which optical disc plants apply for the right to use special tools to place a special holograph on legitimate albums.  That didn’t work because optical disc plants who received permission and had arrangements with artists to manufacture albums would just manufacture, and mark, more albums than their agreement allowed.  The plants would not pay the artists for these extra albums.   Thus, the plants released thousands of infringing albums with the official markings into the market.

logos on envelope cropped Then there’s the various markings of their own design that publishers, musicians and producers have put on their album envelopes in attempt to mark them as legitimate -symbols of the record label or perhaps the producer’s mark.  Infringers easily reproduce the album envelopes, special markings and all, at local print shops.  Bad quality isn’t necessarily an indication of an infringing copy, and good quality isn’t necessarily an indication of a legitimate copy.  That all depends on the particular print house used.  Quality ranges widely and it’s not unusual to find infringing products in packaging of higher quality than the legitimate versions.

clear sleeve cropped Some artists also tried using special seals on their cd envelopes or placing the envelopes inside specially marked clear plastic sleeves.  But just like the envelopes themselves, the seals can be easily reproduced.  The clear plastic sleeves are supposed to provide some indication of quality for the album inside, but they are resalable.  There is no guarantee that what the buyer gets is what was put in the envelope and sleeve originally.

In short, although many attempts have been made, it seems Nigerian artists have yet to find a successful way to indicate to consumers that the album they are buying is legitimate.  With no sure way to know, where’s the incentive to try?  The artists and government urge consumers only to buy non-infringing works, but no one can tell them how to do it.

As a side note: This Ipper recalls attempting to purchase legitimate albums by only looking at the high end, expat-geared shops.  She’s not sure that worked, but still doesn’t know of any better options.  Suggestions are very welcome!

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Matthew said...

Could you purchase the album directly from the artist or their website?

October 8, 2009 at 10:44:00 PM PDT
goldenrail said...

Hi Matthew. Sometimes you might be able to purchase from the artist, their website or a site like Amazon. However, most Nigerian's do not have the ability to do online purchases and I assume even fewer know the artist personally to be able to buy directly from the artist.

November 12, 2009 at 10:36:00 AM PST