There is some dearth of information about the legal framework around such things as music, movies, fashion, writing and other aspects of the entertainment in Nigeria. In a bid to bridge the information gap, we have sought out emerging and informed voices who can provide answers to some of the pressing questions we all probably have. Oyinkansola Fawehinmi, Principal Partner at Technolawgical Partners, who is without doubt one of the most passionate lawyers dedicating time to create solutions for creatives answers some of my questions about the Law and legal issues to do with the entertainment industry in Nigeria. Enjoy and do not forget to share.
Please tell us about your educational background.
Primary School – Startright Nursery and Primary school
Secondary school – Babcock University High School
University – Babcock University (LL.B hons and Diploma in Security Studies)
Nigerian Law School Lagos (B.L)
What was your motivation to join the legal profession?
I come from a family of lawyers so the profession by its name wasn’t new to me. However, I found out that the law in itself can be used to effect necessary change in the society. Also, the prestige attached to seeing the gentlemen at the bar was always gratifying. I have found out that the work load is as high lol.
Can you share a summary of your professional history
My personal point of view as regards my professional path is termed “Lawpreneur”. This view has shaped my professional life to being an adventurous risk taker. I am not just a lawyer, I am a business woman. I started out working in the business areas of the entertainment industry as a Manager (Road and Business Management). I worked with Monarc Talent agency ( a subsidiary of Aristokrat records), G-worldwide etc. After my call to bar, I was working as a solicitor independently before deciding to partner with two other brilliant entertainment lawyers to establish a boutique law firm servicing the entertainment industry. I currently function as General manager, lawyer, music publisher to various companies. Suffice to say my head is uneasy with the many crowns.
What’s your view about specialisation within the legal profession; a necessity or merely a matter of strategy?
My colleagues know my advocacy for specialization. I strongly believe it is the best and fastest route to incubating any legal industry. Specialization in my opinion lends to the credence of the law being a social engineer, because a lawyer specialized in an area of law tends to be focused in constantly testing the law to birth solutions to various problems in the country or industry as the case maybe. As a strategy, it is a brilliant strategy in my opinion. It is faster for any lawyer to establish himself in a particular area than embracing the character of an all knowing jack. Generally, the industry grows with specialization.
What attracted you to Media and Entertainment Law?
The beauty of creative process attracted me to entertainment. The cultural and economic power these industries control is too unbelievable not to get attracted.
How will you describe the level of enlightenment about Media and Entertainment Law within legal circles and then in Nigeria as a whole
Painfully slow. And this is because lawyers think this aspect of law is just contract law. I have had lawyers argue with me that entertainment law cant be classified as a specialization. The industry however, is very aware with the need to have lawyers on their team. But the problem now is getting the best hands or most knowledgeable entertainment lawyers.
What are the principal statutes and regulations to note in the field of Media and Entertainment Law?
The copyright Act is our cornerstone statute. Then we borrow from other aspects of Intellectual Property laws and contract laws.
Will you count yourself as one of the pioneers in this field?
Do you think I am? Lol.
Well there are a few older lawyers we met in this field. The likes of Late Efere Ozako (a strong advocate for entertainment industry), Prof Bankole Sodipo (Led the Copyright Act Legislation campaign to be passed), Barr Tunde Laoye (MCSN lawyer at a point), Barr Seye Lawal, Ms Uduak Udouk (Founder of Africamusiclaw.com she services the African creative in the United States. She is one of my mentors) amongst others. These were men that fought for the foundation of entertainment law which young lawyers like myself are building lifetime blocks on. So I will say I have taken the baton from the founding fathers lo
In your work with creative artists, producers and other stakeholders, what major recurring issues have you identified?
- Lackadaisical attitude to business
We have heard of artistes like Harrysong and some others being arrested by their label records over contractual issues; how do you think such situations can be avoided?
Normally, I will say have me on your retainer and listen to me lol. Let the professionals (lawyers, managers, etc) handle the business with just oversight involvement from the creative. Most times it’s a clash of egos and they now invite lawyers to settle personal issues disguised as purely business issues. I mean lawyers will rise to the occasion gallantly but it gives the industry an image of instability especially now that the spotlight is on Africa.
I have seen some of your tweets about royalties for artistes, what is the legal framework for this in Nigeria and how is it being enforced?
The tenets of royalties are embedded in the Copyright Act. The finer prints of modus operandi is what the industry is slowly being awaken to by the valiant fight of COSON and music publishing companies such as Green Light Music Publishing. Because of the ignorance in the area of publishing, it is a tedious fight to educate the free IP exploitation culture but the fight is slowly successful as the Collective Management Organisation is working assiduously employing ADR, education as well as the courts.
How will you best advise movie makers and music artistes to protect their content using the law?
The copyright commission has a copyright notification system now that you can easily register your works for notification. So before you send the demo or script to anyone make sure you have done that or better still make friends with a lawyer very knowledgeable in this area to guide through some other trade custom way of doing this.
Is there any other thing you’d like to talk about in this field of legal practice that you wish more people were paying more attention to?
Apart from music publishing, I will like to see and work with more Sports Lawyers. I believe this is the time where lawyers are needed to work with stakeholders in that field to build a money bank from that industry.