Artists must protect their creations aggressively by understanding intellectual property (IP) rights and engaging the right legal support to ensure contracts covered their interests. This is critical, especially against the backdrop of the dynamic policy and regulatory landscape in West Africa.
ǼLEX partner, Davidson Oturu, made this observation in a presentation to lawyers in Lagos to mark World Intellectual Property Day recently.
ǼLEX is a full service commercial and litigation firm with nine partners and more than 60 associates. It has offices across West Africa including Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Accra. Lawyers are qualified to practise in Ghana, Nigeria, New York, Texas, England and Wales. The firm also represents and advises key individuals and in-house legal teams across the entertainment sector.
“There are increasing opportunities for lawyers whose understanding of regulations and contracts can protect the rights of artists and the broader creative industry,” he said.
Issues that topped the agenda included piracy (infringement on copyright); cyber risks (leaks); funding for the creation and production of content and projects; uncertain regulatory environments; gaining a foothold (and then protection) within the international market; and contract management.
“Then there is also the guidance our clients need on contentious and non-contentious matters in trademarks, patents, copyright, franchising, licensing, distributorship agreements and technology transfer,” he said.
“And it doesn’t end there – advice is needed on matters relating to talent acquisition, corporate contracts, project finance and corporate structuring with respect to organisations in production, publishing, talent promotion and management.”
At the heart of all of this was the need for support and assistance to a wide variety of artists ranging from emerging talents to renowned acts.
“The first advice we give is very simple - protect your IP as soon as you start taking steps to implement or produce an idea.”
This can be done by consulting a professional to identify what can be protected by trademark, copyright or patent.
“Then secure an exact domain name match; do not be afraid to label pitches/ideas as confidential; and state clearly that the information you are putting out is proprietary.”
To the lawyers attending the event Mr Oturu was clear.
Generating the expected revenue meant staying on top of the payment obligations of the different parties. This included addressing the invoice to the appropriate party and invoicing on time. “Follow up and maintain proper records,” he said.
“Do not be shy when discussing your payments. Payment terms and amounts should be clearly defined and settled at the execution of the contract.”
And be professional.
“This may seem elementary but it is important. Draw a clear professional line in your relationship with business partners and contract parties. You may fear that you appear too aggressive (especially in the entertainment industry) but it sets a precedent for your business and brand. It also projects that you are competent and committed to your craft. This will all come in handy when you are following up on contractual obligations.
After Mr Oturu’s presentation there was a screening of the movie Potato Potahto and a panel discussion with veteran actress and executive producer of the movie, Mrs Ajoke Silva; the rapper, Vector tha Viper (Mr Olanrewaju Ogunmefun); Mr Bada Akintunde Johnson (Country Manager, Viacom); and Mr Oturu.
They discussed challenges of protecting creative work and how lawyers could help resolve them. This led to an interactive session with guests, followed by cocktails.
To read more about ǼLEX and read articles from their team please see their dedicated page on Africa Legal here
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