Intellectual Property Rights in Film Making: Exploring Life Stories & Biopics

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This paper examines the protection of intellectual property rights in film making or its lack thereof accorded to “life stories” in their narrative form against persons who use them without consent.

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Intellectual Property Rights in Film Making: Exploring Life Stories & Biopics – By Beverley Agbakoba-Onyejianya (Partner/Head – Sports, Entertainment & Tech Practice) & Ginika Ikechukwu (Associate – Sports, Entertainment and Tech Practice)

Oloture, a top streaming Netflix movie, produced by well-known production outfit, Ebonylife TV, was released in October, 2020. However, sometime after its release, an investigative journalist called Tobore Ovuorie asserted that the plot of the movie, which is claimed to be a work of fiction, was actually a copy of an investigative report called “West-Africa: Undercover inside the human traffic mafia”  which she wrote for the online newspaper Premium Times in 2014

She further claimed that the movie was an adaptation of her entire life story and although she was later contacted by Mo Abudu, owner of Ebonylife TV, she maintained that her consent was not obtained prior to the shooting of the film.

Back and forth communications ensued between the parties, with Ebonylife claiming that the report made by Tobore was a commissioned work for Premium times, for which, requisite approvals for usage were obtained, whilst Tobore has produced communication between herself and Ebonylife in which she was promised 5% of the proceeds made from the movie to her NGO as well as screen credit. The promise of 5% was not honoured and the dispute subsists till date.

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