Motion Pictures, Markets, and Copylocks

27 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2016 Last revised: 7 Jul 2016

See all articles by Justin Hughes

Justin Hughes

Loyola Law School Los Angeles

Date Written: April 4, 2016


This article discusses what has arguably been the world’s greatest naturally occurring experiment in cultural production without copyright: the burgeoning audiovisual industry of Nigeria, aka “Nollywood.” Although Nigeria has a modern copyright law on the books, virtually complete lack of copyright enforcement for audiovisual media (first videotapes and now DVDs) has meant that Nollywood – now Nigeria’s second or third employment sector – has succeeded almost purely on first mover advantages. Yet as Nollywood matures, it appears to be evolving toward greater emphasis on distribution through physically controlled spaces (cinemas) and technologically-controlled channels (satellite and internet).

To the degree Nollywood sees much of its future in digital networked distribution, it is far from alone. The American audiovisual and music industries are also increasingly built around business models that make works available to consumers through internet and satellite distribution – Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Tidal, and Sirius XM to name just a few. All of these business models rely on the distinction between downloading copies of works and streaming performances of works, a distinction made possible by digital rights management (“DRM”) and the laws protecting DRM. Now, years after the debacle of DRM on compact discs and heady declarations that “DRM is dead,” we are entering a new world of content distribution on DRM-protected platforms that consumers accept. This makes 17 U.S.C. §1201 – put into American copyright law in the 1998 DMCA – an underappreciated legal foundation for new media models, both for Hollywood and Nollywood.

Keywords: Copyright, Film, Africa, Nollywood, Culture, Streaming, Internet, 1201

Suggested Citation

Hughes, Justin, Motion Pictures, Markets, and Copylocks (April 4, 2016). George Mason Law Review, Vol. 23, 2016, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-10, Available at SSRN:

Justin Hughes (Contact Author)

Loyola Law School Los Angeles ( email )

919 Albany Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1211
United States
213-736-8108 (Phone)


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