We’ve just confirmed that iROKO Partners had before now formally asked the owners of Afrinolly to remove all its copyrighted content from iROKO’s YouTube channel, NollywoodLove and other channels or face legal action.
While the owners of Afrinolly may have complied, it appears that they refused to remove other links from the NollywoodLove channel and other channels belonging to iROKO Partners from its platform, including but not limited to movie clips and trailers.
This may not be bad in itself since iROKO Partners has granted over 100 syndication partners license to use its movies on their websites. But the issue is that Afrinolly has been promoting full length movies on radio and newspaper adverts and pre-loading its app on Samsung, Nokia and Blackberry devices following partnerships with Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry and MTN Nigeria.
Afrinolly is said to have been misrepresenting iROKO Partners with these partnerships, likely saying that it has a partnership arrangement with iROKO Partners and have signed contracts with them to distribute the movie content on its platform.
Meanwhile, the owner of Afrinolly, Chike Maduegbuna has not responded to my calls and text messages.
According to a letter dated July 3, 2012, signed by iROKO Partners legal counsel, Tope Lucas to Chike Maduegbuna and made available to TechLoy, the company said:
We would like to categorically state without any equivocation that we are not in, never was, and do not have any partnership arrangement with your platform/firm (AFRINOLLY). We have never at any time prior to now authorized or granted any rights to your firm/AFRINOLLY or your agent or representative(s) to deal with MTN Nigeria Communications Limited on our behalf.
This begs the question: How could MTN Nigeria, Samsung, and other Afrinolly partners have gone ahead with such a partnership without sighting any contract of agreement between Afrinolly and iROKO Partners for the rights to distribute full length movies?
Jason Njoku, CEO of iROKO Partners confirmed the lawsuit in a statement saying:
“In an industry that is rife with misrepresentation, piracy and copyright infringement, we are left with no option but to begin legal action against Afrinolly, who have been illegally building their business on our content.”
He further noted that his company spends millions of dollars legally buying and organizing Nigerian content and hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in combating piracy and ensuring movie producers are remunerated properly for their content.
“It is simply unacceptable for Afrinolly to steal their work and profit from it”, he added, “Afrinolly, since its inception, has never bother to even discuss with us or other content owners and has definitely not remunerated anyone to date.”
According to him, movie producers are now thinking that he (Jason) turned around and sold their rights to MTN Nigeria for $20 million. Literally, fucking them over.
“We have been approached by a number of Nollywood producers, who have expressed dismay that their movies are being exploited. As part of our commitment to the lifeblood of the industry, the producers, we see no other means than to seriously consider our options, look at how we can manage the damage done to our reputation and bring this extraordinary mass copyright infringement to a swift conclusion”, he stated.
Last September, I raised an issue about Afrinolly being a competitor to NollywoodLove and wondered whether Njoku would be thinking of doing a mobile app of the same kind that would kill the Afrinolly app.
Nine months later, the story is that Iroko Partners is suing Afrinolly for N100 million. Although it is likely that there would be a settlement in the next few weeks, this is a clear message that Iroko Partners isn’t here to baby-sit anyone.