This week, some lawyers in the entertainment industry speak on law and entertainment
AUDU MAIKORI is the founder/CEO of Chocolate City Entertainment Company, a Record label, Artiste management and events company that developed, discovered, or promoted and/or managed the careers of some of Nigeria’s must talented and successful artists such as M.I, Jesse Jagz, Djinee, Jeremiah Gyang, Asa and Six Foot Plus. He is also the winner of the British Music Award, International Young Music Entrepreneur of the Year (IYMEY) 2007.
EMEM MEM O EMA is the CEO of Vzhun Media & ONE Management. An accomplished musician who was a member of the international Nigerian music group KUSH, she is the pioneer British Council’s International Young Music Entrepreneur of the Year (Nigeria). She also manages a monthly event with the British Council, Lagos tagged “WAPI” Words and Pictures aimed at enabling young talents to express themselves through their creativity.
GBENGA GEORGE is the CEO of SoForte Entertainment, a company whose major focus is in Distribution and Licensing of music and movie works, events and record label; it has a large network of partnering wholesalers and retailers. The company’s distribution system is the first automated in Nigeria giving accurate sales trend to stake holders on demand and online. He is married to Lara George.
What competitive advantage does being a lawyer give you in entertainment business?
You cannot divorce the role of law in entertainment from entertainment, because entertainment rights, obligations and even events are guided by certain principles and laws of contract, agency, intellectual property the most obvious which is copyrights and commerce, so even a basic knowledge of these principles and its application will help a layman better understand and appreciate the business of entertainment. So when I see a contract I can appreciate the issues from a legal, business as well as industry perspective and that has ensured that I have an advantage over my competitors or partners.
I have always referred to law as the one stop knowledge spot because it is an all encompassing profession with the benefit of concentrating in one particular field so I will say, definitely Law has given me an insight to various sectors and industries, this has ensured that I am covered in every area. My major concentration is intellectual property, a course I studied in the University and have done well to keep up with trends in this particular area all over the world as the world is now a global village, one has to be armed with adequate knowledge so as not to be found ‘deficient’ in certain areas.
I would say for sure that I have had more opportunities as a legal practitioner in the entertainment industry than I probably would have if I wasn’t a lawyer. The sector I play a major role in, that is, Licensing and Distribution, is quite technical and before now, very little aspects of its technical sides were being explored due to lack of professional practice. Entertainment has a bundle of legal matters twisted around it, from Intellectual property to copy rights, several forms of agreements, including ‘Royalty’ Licensing and Distribution agreements, Mechanical rights, Publishing, etc. this list is endless. I have spent time studying this industry and I think it’s time for it to have form and structure. My role is to apply the legal framework provided by Nigerian Law in doing business in this sector, the agreements that fly around is amazing to say the least, Intellectual Properties are so not protected by the nature of agreements signed by parties involved. You would be appalled by the kind of agreements signed by major Artists with music Marketers, it’s worrisome; it lacks protection both for the Artists and the Marketers. The industry has become a force to reckon with now and for it to attract the kind of investors it deserves, structure must be created and I strongly believe that it must start from the legal framework.
What areas of entertainment in Nigeria do you think are most legally challenged? What are your suggestions for improving such areas?
I think that practically every area is very challenged, when people speak about entertainment, they are indirectly referring to the creative industries that are comprised of obvious areas such as film, music and book publishing but don’t quite comprehend that its stretches to encompass new media such as websites, computer programs, blogs, pictures and even architectural designs for stages, sets and studios. So it’s the whole gamut, but I would say the most glaring challenge is not even the lack of laws or policy as is commonly touted, but a lack of enforcement of the many abundant laws we have, the fact that our laws are not regularly updated and most importantly, the under-appreciation and under-valuing of Intellectual Property in Nigeria and that’s what we need to educate people about. If people understand that unauthorised copying of a Jesse Jagz song is not only wrong but heavily punishable by a jail term and /or a fine, they will re–consider before going the pirate route. The challenge is getting people to know that an idea is worth millions of dollars and such creativity must be as fiercely protected as that of a landed property owner.
At a point we had, I would still like to think we have, some of the tightest copyright laws in the world; however, the challenge lies in it’s enforcement. Any artiste/creative person worth his/her salt should peek into the Copyright Laws of this land and learn a thing or two so as to know how and when to act where his/her intellectual property rights are being or about to be infringed upon.
Entertainment generally has too much to do with the law. Every corner of it has a legal side to it and it’s endless. For example, the movie industry - from the Actors and Actress end, there are rights involved that require royalties, they have agreements signed before they get on set to shoot; there is the motion picture production and distribution agreements, Cinema distribution agreements; online download and streaming; CD/DVD distribution; not to talk of producers and director agreements, not to mention merchandising rights, TV rights, etc. Or you mention music and you begin to deal with Producer’s agreement, Recording agreement, Artist Management agreement, Live Performance agreements, mechanical rights, sound tracks for movies agreement, royalties, etc. My discovery is that as long as the legal end remains porous as it is, it would be difficult for stakeholders to make maximum revenue from each work of art. The streams of income from music and movie are numerous but only guaranteed within a proper legal frame work. Entertainment is 75% legal; therefore I can almost say all aspects of the sector need help. Improvements would only come from a strengthened legal framework for the industry. I’m not talking about Copyright Laws simplicita now because Entertainment is far bigger than that, we need Acts that regulate this practice in Nigeria, special attention should be paid to building a stronger legal framework to address major issues like royalties, performance rights, etc; something that specifically addresses the needs of the sectors