Anchor: Who is a media/entertainment lawyer; One of the partners of Nollywood and Mavins records once asked ” but why do I even need a media/entertainment lawyer?
Asanam George: The question, who is a media/entertainment lawyer is one that is of a very broad nature. Given this, I’ll address it by giving a terse definition of who an entertainment lawyer is, what entertainment lawyers do and who entertainment lawyers represent. I think, this will amount to an attempt of addressing whom an entertainment lawyer is.
WHO IS AN ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER?
An entertainment lawyer is simply a legal practitioner who provides legal help and services for artistes, employees, companies and individuals involved in the areas of the entertainment industry which includes, film, radio, television, music, publishing, theater and digital or multimedia entertainment like video games.
This legal services are offered by either helping an actor negotiate a contract with a studio, filing suits over a pirated film, assisting a young record artistes with financial or real estate decisions amongst other things.
WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF ENTERTAINMENT LAWYERS?
It is important that we address also the roles entertainment lawyers play and what they do engage in.
Here, we’ve outlined quite briefly a few roles and responsibilities of an entertainment lawyer and they include;
1. Facilitating Negotiations: Here an entertainment lawyer works hand in hand with talent agents for instance on behalf of their clients in order to ensure that there transparency and the due process of law is adhered to and followed strictly. They also advise their clients on jobs and contracts and negotiate fee arrangements.
2. Connecting clients with other service providers: An entertainment lawyer serves also as a liaison between the talent and other professionals, from agents and tax preparers to network and venues.
3. Protecting intellectual property: Whilst an entertainment attorney represents creative professionals, they as well defend their clients rights to intellectual property, such as lyrics for singers or routines for comedians.
4. Overseeing union and guild membership: An entertainment lawyer may help clients join unions guilds and other professional associations. These attorneys can also work for professional organisations to organize programs and vet potential members.
5. An entertainment lawyer offers also advice/guide to clients on the legal consequences of an contractual document they intend to sign or any contract they intend to enter into.
I’ll love us to note however the fact that the above isn’t an exhaustive list of the roles and functions of an entertainment lawyer.
WHO DO ENTERTAINMENT LAWYERS REPRESENT?
Upon understanding your job responsibilities as an entertainment lawyer, you must decide which clients to represent. An entertainment lawyer can represent any client from the following industries;
a) Film and television industry.
b) Music Industry.
c) Comedy industry.
d) Print and electronic media.
The above is an encompassing list of various industries in the entertainment sphere of life and a legal practitioner can chose to be an attorney for clients who work in any of these industries.
On the second arm of your question which focuses on why does an entertainer need an entertainment lawyer, I’ll start by saying that just like every person in other facets of life endeavor need the services of a lawyer, an entertainer as well needs these services.
Recall that we’ve noted already the roles of entertainment lawyers, and you’ll agree with me that these roles are very pivotal and goes to the root of the career of an entertainer in the entertainment industry.
An entertainment lawyer plays a supervisor and advisory role in every entertainer’s life as he ensures that every contract for instance entered and every document signed, however well intentioned is properly scrutinized and given a legal eye to avoid future complications and issues.
So, I feel that every person in this industry needs the services of one skilled and has mastery cum wizardry of this area of law.
Anchor: In the quest to venture into this lucrative field of law, what courses, materials can one grab handy to develop himself in order to be successful in this practice area?
Also, if you had to recommend one graduate from a room crowded with recent bar exams graduates, what specific qualities would you advise he have to ensure and guarantee his success in this practice area?
Asanam George: There actually exist entertainment law as a course. This is however not done here in Nigeria. You’ll find it mostly in foreign countries like the US amongst others who have it even up to a masters degree level.
In Nigeria however, we have areas of law which are related to the facet of entertainment law – these courses include, contract law, law of tort, company law, bankruptcy law, corporate law, labour law, intellectual property law and a host of others. These are areas in which I feel if one should have a firm knowledge of, he’ll be successful in the aspect of entertainment law.
There also exist numerous materials online which elaborate largely on this aspect of the law. And lest I forget, we should all take note of the fact that there is no existence of a legal framework for entertainment law in Nigeria, however there are related laws which have served as a legal framework of this area of law.
They shall be captured hereunder;
The Copy Rights Acts Cap C28 LFN 2004.
• The trademarks Acts Cap T13 LFN 2004.
• Patents and Design Act Cap P2 LFN 2004.
• Companies and allied matters Act Cap C26 LFN 2004.
• Personal income tax Act Cap P8 LFN 2004.
• The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigerian 1999 (As amended).
I feel personally that the first quality a prospective lawyer who intends to chose entertainment law as his preferred area of specialty upon being called to the bar is to have an interest in learning about the not-so-easy business side of the entertainment industry which includes budgeting, financing, and profit participation.
He must also have the ability to handle many matters simultaneously, while also being efficient, thorough and mindful of legal budgets.
Finally, I’ll say that he must be curious and develop a key interest in keeping up with and understanding developments in technology and business practices in the industry.
Anchor: What do you think can be done by relevant bodies to give this area of law a pride of place in Nigeria?
Asanam George: It is simple and quite easy. We have pointed out clearly already the overwhelming utility of entertainment law.
What I feel can be done by authorities to give this area of law a place of pride in Nigeria is first, the incorporation of entertainment law in Nigerian law faculties.
This is because, there is an increasingly gargantuan demand for the services of lawyers who are entertainment law experts, yet at the moment we can sadly boast of only a few. Once this area is incorporated into our faculties to form a part of our courses, you’d find out that 30%, if not more out of a 100 would pick genuine interest in this area of law. It’ll go a really long way.
Also, we must understand that in as much as this would be an entirely good business and a highly profitable venture for lawyers, it is totally doleful and a bad image for the Nigerian Legal profession for not being able to have sufficient experts in a field that is already fast growing with high demand.
Finally on this question, I feel there is an imminent need for the enactment of an Act establishing and governing this area of law.
Entertainment law suffers the issue of non legislation by the legislature. Reliance overtime has been made to laws governing intellectual property such as the copy Rights Act. This, in effect gives no direct recognition to this area of law.
It would be a great and laudable step taken by our national assembly if something is done about this area of law.
So, on the second part which talks about market trends that has impacted this practice area, I think technology trends has.
The digital revolution and the resulting changes in the music Industry and in television and film distribution have dramatically impacted the entertainment business. We now have the development of streaming music and videos as distribution platforms.
These changes have in turn affected legal practice and industry norms.
Anchor: What is the fiduciary duty of an entertainment attorney to his client?
Asanam George: Generally, every legal practitioner owes his clients a fiduciary duty. This duty entails that he must act in utmost good faith and in the best interest of his client.
In the area of entertainment law, an attorney has a duty to act solely in his Clients good and interest. He must at all times disclose any potential conflict which would impair has abilities to represent his client and lastly ensure that his client acts within the ambit of due process, law and procedure.
About The Author
Asanam George Obong is a student of Faculty of Law, University of Calabar. He is an avid writer, researcher, public affairs analyst and an award winning student advocate. He emerged as the BEST ADVOCATE, Law Students Association of Nigeria, University of Calabar Chapter, 2020. Asanam has keen interest in constitutional law, entertainment law, oil and gas law amongst other areas of law. He is a partner of Lex Fori Chambers of Justice, a student chamber in the university of calabar where he serves as the Director of Litigation. He is a student associate at Lex Fori partners, a trail blazing and leading law firm in Cross River State. Asanam George can be reached via the following means; Whatsapp mobile number – +234 703 243 3815. Facebook Handle – Asanam George.
For knowledge and Justice