Pirated movies and music from Alaba market used to be found across the whole of Nigeria.


In the movie and music sections of Alaba International Market, men like Emmanuel Ejike, 27, control which CDs and DVDs sell. Known in the market as “Ja Rule” after his favorite US rapper, Emmanuel started working in Alaba when he was 15, selling pirated CDs from Moscow, Russia. In 2003, he and his colleagues began producing their own copies of CDs and DVDs, and became so successful that in 2008 the Nigerian Copyright Commission offered Alaba traders a deal: the opportunity to sell their copied CDs legally, if they paid a 250,000 Nigerian naira (US$1,585) licensing fee. Now record labels come to shacks in Alaba to make distribution deals. 

“Alaba market started in the early 1970s. Now it is huge and there are thousands of traders. People trade in all kinds of electronics, as well as furniture, clothes, and other things. The market has a mixture of individual customers and retailers who bulk-buy for their shops across Nigeria and West Africa.

Copied dvds like these are now sold under license, since the local piracy industry became so large it was legalized.

“Music artists can have a distribution deal with a record company and still come to Alaba market. If they have a recorded album, they want to be marketed and we are the market. What we offer to pay depends on the artist. If it is an established artist, we could pay up to 60 million naira (US$380,000) for a three-year contract. If it is an unestablished artist, we might offer them 1 million naira ($6,330) since we are taking a risk and don’t know if the market will accept them. The minimum CD run we do is 10,000 copies, but a big Nigerian artist can easily sell 10 million CDs in a week. “If you didn’t sell many copies of your CD and you still see it for sale in shops around the market, you will know that it is being pirated. You would go up to the trader selling your CD and say, ‘I have not been selling this song for the last week, where did you get your CDs from?’ The guy would be, like, ‘I bought it from that particular shop.’

Then you would go to that shop and ask the same question until you found the source. So, it is easier for a man who is in the market to notice if a CD is being pirated than for a man in an office somewhere. Even if someone starts pirating your CD from outside the market, they would still have to come here to sell it because this is where all of the business for West Africa is done.”




08 art-011Superheroes

Comic-book pioneers DC and Marvel don’t just own the USA’s original superheroes; they’ve held US trademark on the word “superhero” since 1979. Anyone looking to battle evil and wear their underwear on the outside will have to make do with plain “hero.”

08 art-013“I Have a Dream”

“Let freedom ring” is repeated 10 times in Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech “I Have a Dream,” but freedom isn’t free. Dr. King copyrighted the speech one month after its delivery: anyone who wants to hear it must pay US$10 to his estate.


08 art-012Balloon Dogs

In December 2010, artist Jeff Koons sued San Francisco’s Park Life Gallery for selling bookends similar to his “balloon” sculptures. The gallery registered its own complaint in response: “As virtually any clown can attest, no one owns the idea of making a balloon dog.”

08 art-014Restored Jesus

After Cecilia Gimenez’s restoration of a fresco of Jesus left him looking like an Eskimo, thousands visited the Santuario de Misericordia in Zaragoza, Spain, to gape. The church made €2,000 (US$2,600) in admission fees, so Gimenez has hired lawyers to copyright the image.


From the pages of COLORS #85 - Going to Market.