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Copyright combat: Journalist insists EbonylifeTV adapted her story for Òlòtūré without credit

TOBORE Ovuorie, an investigative journalist has insisted that EbonylifeTV Limited adapted her investigative report for the production of a movie, Òlòtūré.

Tobore said this during a telephone interview with The ICIR on Wednesday in reaction to the response to the legal representative of Ebonylife on the alleged adaptation of her investigative report titled “Investigation: Inside Nigeria’s Ruthless Human Trafficking Mafia”.

“I am not withdrawing my statement because I did not tell lies, in a case of defamation it means the person has made a false statement that has affected another person, so everything I have said so far is nothing but the truth and fact, so there is nothing to withdraw,” said Tobore.

She said her agitation and demands are premised on the ‘fact’ that from the beginning and the end of the movie, EbonylifeTV wrote that the movie is fiction and at the open and end of the movie, five other people were credited for writing the story.

She added that Ebonylife should have contacted her before filming the movie because it is about her life experience and she was still in therapy when the movie was released without due credit to her.

Tobore stated that Ebonylife TV should have apologised instead of embarking on a ‘damage control’.

“They should have quietly apologised to me when my lawyers contacted them and all these won’t have been flying around. It’s a case of beating me and still want to dictate how I should cry. It’s horrendously wrong.

“A film on exploitation is birthed by exploitation itself. Is that not a huge irony? What’s the difference between the traffickers and what they have done?” she said.

EbonylifeTV, through its legal representative, refuted Tobore’s claim and threatened to seek legal recourse if she fails to retract her words and publications that her story was adapted in the production of Òlòtūré.

“The allegation in your letter, that the Project is “a complete plagiarism and adaptation of [your Client’s] work”, is unfounded and our Client hereby refutes it in its entirety,” the letter read.

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Ebonylife claimed that it only came across the journalist’s publication while ‘researching’ on the movie, adding that she had access to a private screening of the movie.

“To this end, we ask that you prevail on your Client to desist from further publications of these untrue claims and publish retractions of the disparaging publications on the various platforms where the disparaging remarks were made, failing which our Client will be left with no choice, but to resort to its considered legal actions, without further recourse to you,” Ebonylife’s response further read in part.

Disclaiming Ebonylife’s claim, Tobore explained to The ICIR that, on May 31st, 2019 she received a letter dated May 30th, 2019 titled “Appreciation For Journalistic Endeavours,” from Ebonylife signed by Abudu.

In the said letter, she confirmed that Ebonylife disclosed it came across her story while conducting research for the movie, Òlòtūré and the movie was inspired by the published story, alongside other articles and projects.

She said although she was showed some part of the movie before it was released, she didn’t do anything because she thought the proper credit was not given because it was still in post-production.

“The letter was not to seek my permission to use my story but only to appreciate my effort and deposit some percent of the profit made in Nigeria to my non-profit organisation,” Tobore stated.

Tobore in a letter to EbonylifeTV through her legal representative had demanded the compensation for copyright infringement in the sum of $5,000,000.00 (Five Million US Dollars), the immediate inclusion of proper open credit and end credit in the Movie, acknowledging the adaptation of her work in line with industry standard and practice.

Her counsel demanded, “a restriction on any further exploitation of our Client’s published life story by your good self, your company and its related companies or affiliates, in any form, including our Client’s post-investigation struggles and experiences, such as her nervous breakdown episodes, which she personally shared with you ABudu on set, on or about 6 June 2019 during the recording of the special edition of a program titled: ‘Moments With Mo’ at the Ilupeju recording studio of EbonylifeTV.”

The journalist added that the open and end credits of the Movie should be re-edited to read as follow, Open Credit “This Film Is Largely Based On Events Which Happened To A Nigerian Investigative Journalist In A 2014 Published Investigative Story” while the End Credit should read “This Film Is An Adaptation Of West Africa Undercover Inside The Human Trafficking Mafia, An Investigative Story By Tobore Ovuorie Published By Zam Magazine, Netherlands, On 22 January 2014 And Subsequently By Premium Times, Nigeria”.

When Abudu was contacted by The ICIR, she replied via a text message with a link to her Instagram post of a Premium Times report titled “Movie inspired by PREMIUM TIMES investigation launches on Netflix”.

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In the post, Abudu thanked the Premium Times for giving EbonyLifeTV ‘the copyright’ to the story.

“Thank you so much Premium Times for telling such a range of compelling stories. We thank you for your partnership and we thank you for giving us the copyright to The Story Titled: Inside Nigeria’s Ruthless Human Trafficking Mafia” We look forward to telling more compelling stories published and owned by Premium Times.

In another text message, Abudu said she has nothing more to say apart from the post.

Meanwhile, section 10 subsection 3  of the Copyright Act gives ownership of journalism work to the publisher, in this case, Premium Times.

This report is updated to include the provision of the Nigerian copyright law.

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