As cultural output from Nigeria continues to ascend in popularity across the world, there has been a renewed focus on creating and implementing the structural underpinning to support the rise of the country’s creative industry. An important part of that task is strengthening the legal framework that governs the creative industry. From the infectious beats of Afrobeats to the captivating scenes of Nollywood and the irresistibility of the Gen-Z’s taking over our screens and international billboards, Nigeria’s entertainment scene is a global force to be reckoned with.
Amidst all of that spotlight, glitz, and glamour, entertainment law continues to be an unsung hero.
A little over six months ago, Okikioposu Qudus and Thaddeus Ayodeji teamed up to set up a Lagos-domiciled law firm with the remit of helping creatives understand the legal aspect of their craft and how to better take advantage of the law governing the creative sector. “When we started, it was more of looking at how the entertainment industry has always been,” Qudus said.
“It has been a situation whereby most people don’t pay attention to the legal side of things and there’s a lot of people who have gone ahead to sign contracts in their vulnerable times, given the fact that they are not exposed. They don’t understand that in this industry, it’s almost all business. For example, artists sign contracts, especially record deals, where they are at a disadvantage and they are trying to expand their reach and live like they have the energy, value and talent, and they can just do anything.”
To give an understanding of what is at stake, the entertainment industry’s primary product is intellectual property. Intellectual property is a creation of the mind and intellectual property law is the body of law that protects the outcome of the intellectual activity. The major advantage of IP rights is that it allows you as the right owner to stop others from appropriating your creation.
Most of the legal wrangling that has taken place in recent time in the Nigerian music industry has been centred around the control of IP and who gets to decide how it is applied and exploited. Helping creatives to understand their rights has been a central part of O.G.Q and Co’s mission since its foundation.
“I got to know that most of these artists these days just want to show that they are creative” Ayodeji said. “They just want to let you know that they can sing and show you that ‘I have this talent.’ It’s not planned, it’s based on impulse. We have a number of creatives we are representing, and because I’m very close to a few artists under us, I got to know that they don’t put this into consideration, they just delve into the arts without the protection first because they have to know that the industry is a jungle.”
In the world of entertainment law, there’s a saying, “When in doubt, lawyer up.” It’s not just a phrase; it’s wisdom. Lawyers are your legal knights, defending your creative castle against copyright dragons and trademark trolls. As their involvement with the Nigerian entertainment sector deepens, O.G.Q and Co. are finding this sentiment to be true. According to Sekinat Raji, an associate at the firm, they are seeing an improvement in the attitude of creatives to legal representation. “I can see that a lot of artists and creatives—that’s mostly the people we have contact with—a lot of them don’t have the money to pay and don’t really see the essence of having a lawyer,” she starts, “But another thing I’ve noticed is that many of them now know the importance of having a lawyer. You need to involve a lawyer in everything you are doing.” Qudus is similarly enthused by this development. “The importance of having an entertainment lawyer is very key,” he says.
“I’m happy that creatives are on the verge of understanding and knowing that having a legal representative like an entertainment lawyer that understands the entertainment business and the legal side of it.”
As the effort to build a rigorous legal framework continues, O.G.Q and Co. hope to be at the forefront of the push to ensure that Nigerian and African creative practitioners and, even, employees receive all that’s due to them. “I feel like most people see entertainment and think immediately solely and only about IP, but it goes beyond that” Halimat Bello, an associate at the firm shared.
“We have rights for those that work in the industry and how to protect them. We need to consider our labour laws to be able to prevent a situation like the BAFTA strike that’s been going on for like six months now. So, I feel OGQ, in this situation, would be able to advise our clients regarding how to interact with their workers and employees.”
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