Professionals in the entertainment industry also need the services of a lawyer skilled in entertainment law. If you’re an actress, producer, dancer, singer, record label, production hall, cinema, or distributor, you would require legal services that may be applicable specifically for your profession or in your industry.
However, understanding what an entertainment lawyer does, how these sets of skills can defend and strengthen your career and find someone who suits your requirements can sound like a daunting task. For the better part of my career, I have been an entertainment lawyer in Nigeria and have supported several hundreds of singers, performers, and music labels in Nigeria.
In this article, I am going to address some popular questions about how and why you would need an entertainment lawyer.
What is an entertainment lawyer and how are they different from other lawyers?
An entertainment lawyer, unlike a divorce lawyer or a business lawyer, represents and safeguards the rights of creatives, artists, businesses, and those in the entertainment sector, including film, tv, digital media, theatre, advertising, and music. They also provide professional advice to people and businesses on issues related to certain aspects of the entertainment industry.
An entertainment lawyer can have experience in many fields of law, including intellectual property, business law, labour law, and lawsuits as they pertain to the entertainment sector, depending on what portion of the industry they operate in and with whom they work.
In Nigeria, a lot of the work relating to the entertainment sector is focused on Lagos. As an entertainment lawyer in Lagos, I help actors, executives, artists, musicians, and producers, I am also regularly representing larger organizations, such as production houses, media firms, management firms, studios, record labels, etc.
In what areas can an entertainment lawyer help you.
An entertainment lawyer’s scope of work is wide, but some of their more popular responsibilities include:
Negotiations and Contract drafting
An entertainment lawyer is important when it comes to negotiating a deal that protects your interests. Entertainment lawyers will negotiate project terms with all parties concerned, such as other lawyers involved in the transaction, artist, record labels, studio, to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your efforts. More often the contracts are also drafted by entertainment lawyers.
Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property, or IP, is a multibillion-dollar industry. Everything created in the field of entertainment right from a musician’s original album to a movie script needs to be protected. When copyright or trademark disputes occur, an entertainment lawyer may ensure that a client’s proprietary property is treated correctly and secured. As an entertainment lawyer in Nigeria, I spend a lot of time dealing with IP law-related matters.
Musicians, Artists, and Record Labels are run by extremely creative people. In a professional setting, the matters you have to deal with are legal issues that fall outside of the field of practice of professionals in the creative industry, an entertainment lawyer may be great to have to help you navigate the legalities. Having an entertainment lawyer on your side almost always guarantees a favourable deal for you.
Having an entertainment lawyer on your side has an unwritten advantage. A good entertainment lawyer has the ability to help their clients connect with those in the business, including agents, labels with artists and musicians, and vice versa.
How is an entertainment lawyer different from any other lawyer?
Any professional service, be that of an Engineer or a Doctor, you would find a specialist who deals with a particular area. There are Mechanical Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Computer Engineers, etc. Similarly, there are Oncologists, obstetricians, anesthesiologists, and other specialists among the doctors. The legal profession is very specialized as well.
Assume there is a corporate lawyer or a Tax Lawyer or a Criminal Lawyer. Isn’t it possible for them to function as the entertainment lawyer as well? The response is no if safeguarding your rights is a top priority.
A decent corporate lawyer or Criminal lawyer might have some experience of entertainment law, however, if a case exists that requires the services of an entertainment lawyer, hire someone who specializes in that field. As a specialized entertainment law firm in Lagos, I have had the privilege to work with some of the finest artists and businesses across Nigeria. I am often called upon to advise companies and artists who had initially approached a non-specialized lawyer whose work, I have to rectify.
Should I hire an entertainment lawyer?
The answer to the question “Should I hire an entertainment lawyer?” is one that hinges on what stage of your career you are in currently.
Let’s presume you’re a newcomer to the music, film, art, or media industry. You might not need an entertainment lawyer, if you haven’t yet been hired by a production house or studio, or if you’re employed pro bono on tiny independent ventures for the experience.
But let’s look at some particular cases in which an entertainment lawyer will be needed… Are you in the midst of negotiating a deal, whether it’s yours or anyone else’s? An entertainment lawyer may be called in to decide on the conditions in certain situations.
Or maybe you’re a writer whose writing has been plagiarized or taken completely. If this is the case, an entertainment lawyer may assess the situation and, if necessary, pursue legal action.
It may also be a case where you need advice on the marketing rights for a movie you made or the formation of a production company. Or if you are a media house and you are deciding to hire artists, then you might need advice from an entertainment lawyer.
Unfortunately, if you are sued over anything from breach of contract or trademark violation, you would need the help of an entertainment lawyer.
How do you find a good entertainment lawyer?
If you based anywhere in Nigeria, and you work in the entertainment or media sector, a starting point would be asking around others within your industry. Chances are they might be able to recommend a good entertainment lawyer. However, this only one way to do it. Before you do decide to hire an entertainment lawyer you should examine if they really are dedicated to the entertainment law practice, i.e if entertainment law is the core practice area, Their experience, cost, former clients are all of significance if you are looking to hire a good entertainment lawyer in Nigeria.
Once you find a lawyer, what should you ask them?
For both you and the lawyer, a professional briefing is similar to an interview. It’s important to make the most of your time by coming armed with questions like:
What is their professional background?
How have they dealt with similar clients in the past?
How much do they deal with matters that are very similar to yours?
If it is an entertainment law firm you are looking to hire. Do they have the ability to help you with both transactional and litigation work?
It is equally important that you feel at ease with them and that you can openly express your needs.
Also, bear in mind that, particularly in matters of litigation, your prospective lawyer might interview you to see if they’re the best match for you. Bottom line: Be as specific as possible regarding your needs prior to your appointment such that neither you nor they lose time.
If you are looking to hire an entertainment lawyer you can contact us here