The blockbuster film, ‘Oloture’ has sparked an ongoing controversy and copyright infringement allegations between Ebonylife CEO Mo Abudu and an investigative journalist, Tobore Ovuorie.
“Òlòtūré” details the story of a young, naïve Nigerian journalist who goes undercover as a prostitute to expose the shady underworld of human trafficking and even gets raped in the process.
Controversy started in 2020 when Tobore alleged that EbonyLife stole the rights of Oloture which was her life story without her permission and adequately compensating her.
Tobore in an exclusive with Pulse on Jan 7 said Oloture was an adaptation of her life story which she was fuelled by the disappearance and death of her close friend Ifueko who was trafficked to Italy.
She admitted that when the opportunity however came to embark on an investigation on sex trafficking, she embraced it in order to get closure.
A certain Evelyn of Zam Chronicles had reached out to her in 2013 asking her to interview 7 women about to be trafficked but she sent a different proposal instead as she wanted to embed herself into the role to make it more personal and relatable.
Tobore revealed that the investigation was personal for her and was just a small part of what she actually experienced as she deliberately didn’t want to put out everything.
Her experience and close shave with death from the investigation led to depression, panic attack, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and even, had to go to rehab abroad in the process.
The media mogul however debunked the allegations in a video on Instagram on Tuesday, Jan 12. This is coming days after she also shared a press release about the purported copyright infringement.
According to Abudu, Tobore wrote the article ‘Inside Nigeria’s Ruthless Human Trafficking Mafia’, which was published in August 2014, by Premium Times, Tobore’s employer at the time.
She however revealed that the copyright of the investigative report belonged to Premium times and only the media company and its partner of the project, Zam Chronicles could lay claim to it.
Abudu said: “According to the Premium Times editor-in-chief, only the media company and their partner on that project, Zam Chronicles, can lay claim to the copyright of that report based on Nigeria’s copyright law. We sought and obtained the rights from Premium Times, the owners of the story. As such, we fulfilled our legal obligations.
She also said: We sought and obtained the right from Premium Times, the owners of the story, as such, we fulfilled our legal obligation and do that take kindly to suggestion stating otherwise. There are several instances where we have acquired the rights to other stories, books, and plays, such as “Queen Hunter“, “Death and the King’s Horseman” and “Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives“
In May 2020, her team reached out to Tobore to recognise and encourage her in her campaign against sex trafficking. She was given a private screening, given a special mention in the end credit of the movie, and also granted an interview on ‘Moments with Mo’. She was also offered 5% of the proceeds of the cinema run to go towards her NGO to which she acknowledged.
However, the cinema release didn’t happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She however noted that within a few days after the movie’s release on October 2nd, Tobore started making accusations on social media. She wrote to Netflix and launched an attack against Kenneth Inyang, who never saw the script until we approached him to direct. A month after, Tobore’s lawyers alleged copyright infringement and were demanding $5 million (2.5 billion) in compensation.”
Describing Tobore’s monetary demands as “extortionist and blackmailing” in nature, Abudu stated that she might resort to going to court if need be but said she remains open to settling the issue in an “appropriate conversation”.
“At this point, our in-house lawyer suggested that we needed to engage an external legal counsel, which we did. We knew we had not infringed on her copyright because Premium Times owned it. We did not have N2.5 billion to give. In order to understand what her demands were based on, our lawyers began meeting with hers,” Abudu added.
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The controversy has gotten mixed reactions from Nigerians who have been reacting on Twitter.
I just read about this saga between Mo Abudu & Tobore on the copyright claim of Oloture.
We’ve heard 2 sides of the story, we are waiting for Premium Times to tell us their side. From when Tobore started work with them, & her agreement with them on the human trafficking project.
— Kemi Ariyo (@d_problemsolver) January 12, 2021
It’s very easy to go from the victim to the perpetrator if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If Tobore claims that the story which Mo Abudu made into the movie, Oloture, is her intellectually property, and Premium Times is saying that the story belongs to them because
— Major Gen. OLUCHI⚡️☠️ (@General_Oluchi) January 12, 2021
After reading Tobore’s writeup via Premium Times and later on watching Oloture, I was upset at first grappling with her accusations against Mo Abudu and co. But watching Mo today spill personal stuff to prove otherwise, it’s obvious Tobore was instigated.
— I.E-O? (@itohanekpemiata) January 12, 2021
Re Oloture – If Premium Times owns the copyright to Tobore’s story and Mo Abudu’s Ebony Life acquired the rights from PT then Tobore’s claims are entirely baseless.
— Chidi (@chidi_esq) January 12, 2021
@MoAbudu released a statement on Oloture the movie. It’s good that she finally spoke up. While obviously there were many parallels between the two stories, it seems there’s more beneath the surface. But I think Mo’s arguments too are valid.
— Kemi OWONIBI (@KemiOwonibi) January 12, 2021