By Ayo Sogunro
Dearest Linda Ikeji,
Re: To the Guys That Want To Take Down LIB
Permit me the indulgence of a few lines to your eminent personality. I have been a constant fan of your work, although from afar. To be honest, I rarely open your blog volitionally, never scrolled through the news items on a slow day, never typed out the address on my browser to open it; yet, like hundreds of thousands of other Nigerians—I find myself falling into your domain through the intricacies of internet sharing and their damn hyperlinks. Despite this non-conscious increment of your page views, I dare say that I have had no cause to complain about the content of LIB—I expected to find gossip and entertainment not Shakespeare, and you have never disappointed me.
So, again, I am a huge admirer of your intrepid work.
But this is not to say I have not had some mixed feelings—possibly on the verge of “beef”: as a writer who has managed to capture some viral attention on social media myself, I know how difficult it is to get to the top. Like you have rightly pointed out, you are highly ranked in the Nigerian cybersphere. And, you could say I envy—to use our recent diction—your super-megastar blog status.
Yet, this is not an automatic “hating”.
You see, I do not hold your successes against you. The fact that gossip and entertainment blogs rank higher than informative or analytical ones is hardly your fault—it’s just a simple reflection of our society’s intellectual values. More importantly, if you don’t make the money from this, someone else will, anyway. Considering your status as, I think, a single black woman, it is all the more inspiring that you are the one raking in all that cash and influence. Believe me, this is a really inspiring story—worthy of its own biopic sometime.
But on the other hand, here is the problem: we live in a world of laws and regulations, and most of your critics have come from that angle. And a lot of people cherish these legal values. In fact, some people are almost insane about the extent to which they are prepared to enforce laws. These people are passionate enough about their rights under the law to come across as your “haters”. I, for one, am willing to ignore a lot of these unreasonable laws—but not everyone one can be as patient as I am.
Now, what do I mean?
Take, for example, the other day when you published my letter criticizing that son of the Abachas: I was quite happy to see it posted on your blog even without you requesting permission. Practically the whole of Nigeria’s internet did, anyway. I didn’t mind. I am crazy like that. For people like me, we are happy to see our content shared around the world without restrictions, even where the person sharing it is making money from it. To people like me, the moral right to be acknowledged as the writer is sufficient, and we do not care much about the economic rights—which is why I will never get to buy a Range Rover.
You got the moral rights acknowledgment aspect correct in your response to these so-called haters. But, a lot of my writer friends are not haters, they are simply hard workers who would also like, very much, to buy their own Range Rovers someday; a difficult enough ambition in Nigeria, where writing is about the lowest paying job or business an African can have. Consequently, a number of my writer friends are very guarded, not just about the moral rights, but also about the economic rights of their writings.
Now, I do not necessarily agree with their position about sharing online content. This is where you and I are on the same page—afterall, we should all be grateful first to Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, who gave us this medium without copyright or licensing restrictions. But, we do not control the laws or the regulations governing copyright—and so we have to understand the point of my writer friends. These people are not “haters” and they do not want to take down your blog just to make some money. No, they are mostly writers with genuine economic copyright grievances—and that 2014 Range Rover Sport Supercharged didn’t help them to suddenly become more understanding.
Consequently, we should be able to see their perspective, considering also that Google sees their perspective.
All of these is why: first, as a publisher, you need a lawyer to help you circumnavigate the murky waters of copyright—forget the excuse that everyone else is doing it, and focus on doing it right; secondly, start some payment terms for the hungry, trekking, writers whose writing you “borrow”—you will be surprised how cooperative they can get. Thirdly, you may need an accountant too, just to balance the costs of all these economics. It’s a small price to pay to save yourself the burden of critics—and you may end up having to own, maybe, not a Range Rover. But you will rest easy from spammers, hackers, and critics who will stop at nothing to get you off the charts.
These, of course, do not mean you will not have genuine haters determined to make cyberspace a warfront for you—but for genuine haters, just like you said, you have “the backing of God”, same as the rest of us mortals. Meanwhile, get the backing of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for all the other stuff. You’re in the big leagues now, and the legal world comes with the package.
On a personal note, I am also very keen on changing my car; My 2004 Honda Accord is so not supercharged and has become a bit of a drag with old age. A retainer with my firm would be a quietly and quite satisfactory arrangement for both of us. As a bonus: you get the services of a great writer into the bargain—particularly to help with all those pesky original content.
I look forward to your prompt response.
Yours respectfully, sincerely, faithfully, captivated and so on, etc.