Brooklyn DA Cracks Down On Nollywood Counterfeits

Brooklyn, NY – Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes today announced an investigation into the counterfeiting and illegal sale of movies from the Nigerian film industry, or Nollywood. KCDA Detective Investigators recovered more than 10,000 counterfeit DVDs earlier this week. 

“The villains in this drama are the shop owners who peddle pirated DVDs, a crime that is tantamount to outright theft,” said District Attorney Hynes. “The sale of bootleg and counterfeit goods deprives the city and state of New York of millions of dollars in sales tax revenue, at a time when we all need it most, and it deprives the artists who made the movies of their well-deserved proceeds. I would like to thank Tony Abulu and the Filmmakers Association of Nigeria for their support in this investigation.” 

Tony Abulu, President and CEO of Filmmakers Association of Nigeria, USA, said, “The African film industry in the United States is a veritable revenue generator for Africa, and the infringement of copyrighted African films in the U.S. will not be tolerated. We would like to thank Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes and his team for their generous support as well as African Artists Collaborative and Public Interest Intellectual Property Advisors for their continued commitment towards the actualization of this goal. Filmmakers Association of Nigeria, USA will continue to seek the prosecution of infringers of Nollywood films in the U.S.” 

The investigation began with a complaint to the District Attorney’s Action Center, about the illegal sale of pirated movies. Monday KCDA Detective Investigators executed search warrants at nine stores, from which they recovered more than 10,300 counterfeit DVDs; five multi-slot, high-volume disc duplicators; as well as hundreds of blank DVDs, disc cases and sleeves, and pre-printed media covers. DIs also recovered laptop computers, business records, checkbooks and bank records, from the various businesses. 

Among the recovered DVDs were multiple 2009 and 2010 titles, such as Material Girl, Mind Games, the Governor’s Gift and Stolen Will. 

The investigation will continue, until it is determined who owns each of the businesses and who reproduced and distributed the recordings. Those responsible could face charges including Trademark Counterfeiting and Forgery and could receive sentences of up to seven years in prison. 

The case is being investigated by Detective Investigator Christopher Perkins, Deputy Chief Investigator Greg Deboer, Senior Assistant District Attorney Bernarda Villalona and Executive Assistant District Attorney Gavin Miles. George Terra is Assistant Chief Investigator, Joseph Ponzi is Chief Investigator, and Michael Vecchione is Chief of the Rackets Division.

For years, fans in Brooklyn have devoured films from Nigeria, paying $3 for bootlegged copies of the latest releases at utilitarian stores in the Flatbush neighborhood that distribute cell phones, calling cards and an evening’s entertainment.

The low-budget, pulp features on the shelves, with soap-opera story lines and names like “Key of Life” or “Lagos Boys” or “Last Chance” (Parts 1 and 2) come from  Nollywood, one of the biggest and most prolific film industries in the world.

In the past, FAN USA took on some obvious offenders by pleading with the store owners to work hand-in-hand with the artists to supply them with legitimate copies of their works for sale in the US. The result was discouraging, as the number of pirates increased exponentially. The majority of US store owners that sell these pirated products suffer no repercussion, claim that the products were not copyrighted in the US, and therefore conclude that copyright laws cannot be enforced.  To date, the niche market still continues in this practice of buying and selling pirated copies causing the loss of revenue to the artists, many of whom have been sadly forced to lose all hope and go out of business in Nollywood. Sources from FAN reveal that such raids would be carried out in other cities were counterfeit Nollywood movies are being sold.

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