Entertainment Contracts: Lawyers Warn against Pitfalls

Lawyers have warned entertainment industry practitioners to ensure that their transactions are given legal teeth in order to avoid business failures.

The lawyers who spoke at the third edition of the “Legal Business Meet-up 3.0” with the theme, “Media and entertainment business: Legal issues,” noted that the days of mere oral and “gentleman” agreements are over. The event held at Leadspace, Yaba, Lagos.

Speaking on “Legal Issues in Digital Entertainment and Social Media,” Prince Ikechukwu Nwafuru noted that the entertainment industry contributed up to 2.3% (about N239 billion) to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product in 2016, even as the federal government “projects at least $1 billion contribution to the economy from entertainment and creative industry by the end of 2020.”

With about 103 million internet users in Nigeria as at May this year, up from 28 million users in 2012, Nwafuru noted that “Disruption will drive customer and brand relevance, strategic growth and operational excellence.”

He urged entertainment industry practitioners to ensure registration of their business names and entities “to secure corporate name and identity. It gives your business and work a structure. Alternatively, identify with a registered entity. Under Nigerian Law, two or more persons can form a company. The new Companies and Allied Matters Bill when passed to law allows one person to own a company.”

Speaking on “The need for a formal contractual relationship between players in the entertainment industry,” Mr. Kingsley Okoyefi observed that “There are basically no definite number of parties to an entertainment contract; however as events unfolds, the parties too follow.”

According to him, the use of solicitors in contract matters aids professionalism, documentation, ease of reference and clarity.

On her part, the convener of the “Legal Business Meet-up” seminar series, Ms. Ifeoma Ben noted that “There are a lot of transactions in the Entertainment Industry where the services of lawyers are as a matter of importance needed.”

Noting that lawyers may be required for drafting of contracts as well as at licensing and distribution stages, she added that such legal services may also extend to “Helping clients in negotiating entertainment deals and ensuring legal compliance at all levels” as well as protecting the intellectual property rights of artists.

The astute lawyer who spoke on “Entertainment transactions: the role of lawyers,” warned that “Nigerian lawyers need to develop competencies in entertainment law in order to be able to advise and adequately engage in entertainment transactions.”

According to her, “An Entertainment Lawyer must understand his client’s business, otherwise he/she may not be able to proffer legal solutions to legal issues arising from the business.

“Since Entertainment law involves law of contract, labour law and intellectual property law and the application of these legal principles to the entertainment industry, an entertainment lawyer must be well grounded in these areas.”

She urged entrepreneurs to ensure that they engage lawyers in their transactions in order to avoid crisis. Her words: “Every business needs a legal advisor. Businesses should build a relationship with a good lawyer early enough in the lifecycle of the business. Your Legal Advisor will get to know the intricacies of your business and give legal advice when necessary. Be wise; seek legal counsel and protect your business from liabilities.”

The event was attended by key stakeholders including lawyers and entertainment industry practitioners.

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