BY ‘SEGUN ODEJIMI
The argument may never end. It has been on for centuries and we seem no closer to a resolution. When does artistic plagiarism become a crime? After what we now refer to as plagiarism appeared in the 18th century, there have been arguments that plagiarism in itself is not a crime. That it can, however, constitute what is classed as copyright infringement.
To some, several instances of artistic plagiarism deserve commendation. Respected writer, Oliver Goldsmith once remarked about Laurence Sterne in The vicar of Wakefield: a tale, Volume 5 p.xviii, “Sterne’s Writings, in which it is clearly shewn, that he, whose manner and style were so long thought original, was, in fact, the most unhesitating plagiarist who ever cribbed from his predecessors in order to garnish his own pages. It must be owned, at the same time, that Sterne selects the materials of his mosaic work with so much art, places them so well, and polishes them so highly, that in most cases we are disposed to pardon the want of originality, in consideration of the exquisite talent with which the borrowed materials are wrought up into the new form.“
But no matter what you think, a line should be drawn.
Popular Nigerian music video director, Clarence Peters, isn’t new to criticism and allegations of concept “theft”, or as you like it, plagiarism in his works. He’s not even the first person to be so accused. In recent years, Ariana Grande (for “Break Free” and “One Last Time“), One Direction (for a million and one videos including “You and I“), Drake (for “Hotline Bling“) and Beyoncé (for the highly controversial “Formation” video) have all had allegations of plagiarism thrown in their directions.
Two years ago when TiwaSavage‘s Eminado video in which hitmaker, Don Jazzy featured was released, South African rapper Tumi Molekane accused Clarence of stealing some of the footages in Asinamali, a video the rapper claimed was a dedication to Seydou Keita.
In the aftermath of this, many reactions followed which included that of an entertainment lawyer, Uduak Oduok who wrote, “I do think his creativity has suffered for a while now and that he needs to push himself. I have lost count of the many times I have said this on AML.” Many, like Uduak, felt that Clarence was simply a “genius” who has since run out of ideas who now depended on lifting ideas here and there.
During the whole saga, my take was simple: things happen, it could have been a coincidence. I admired Clarence and was strongly of the opinion that his arrival on the scene changed the face of music video directing in Nigeria – an industry that has given birth to many talented directors such as Meji Alabi, MEX, Moe Musa and Aje Filmworks.
That admiration and respect fizzled out when after falling slightly in love with the video of Justin Bieber‘s Sorry a track off the amazing “Purpose” album, I was unfortunate to stumble upon the video of Flavour’s Dance. After seeing “Sorry” replicated, albeit very poorly, I was massively disappointed to learn that Clarence shot it. From the first frame, you could see the ‘theft’ in daylight. With the dancing girls, plain background, bright-coloured costumes and all, there was no mistaking where the concept came from. Unlike his attempt to improve on Tumi’s video in Eminado, this was a total bad job.
I cannot imagine Flavour not seeing Justin Bieber’s video before “Dance” was made. The fact that he accepted that work without as much as a fuss (at least none that I know of) is as much indictment to him as it is to Clarence. A certain level of mediocrity still roams the music industry and this is a testament to it. Such acts of theft are still merely just shrugged at. This ridiculousness in the form of a music video won’t stop Flavour and others of his kind from seeking out Clarence Peters to helm the videos of their new hit songs.
Even though his bank account balance might be shooting up from all the works he’s being begged to do, the product of Sir Shina Peters and Clarion Chukwurah‘s love story should know that his reputation and integrity is sinking faster that an object caught in quicksand. If this is the mentality he is planning to bring into Nollywood after his well-accepted short film Hex, uncle bros needs to have a rethink. Nollywood is not perfect but a serial idea thief is not what the industry needs.