Lawyer of the Week – Oladapo Olayemi

Kindly share with us your educational background.

I had my secondary education at Babcock University High School, Ogun State. After which I obtained my LLB from the Univerity of Ilorin. I was then posted to the Nigerian Law School in Bayelsa. During my NYSC, I served at the prestigious Agbaje, Agbaje & Co., where I practiced various areas of law including corporate practice, property law, criminal law and got an in-depth appreciation of the workings of the Nigerian legal system. After almost a year of practice, I felt an urge to pursue a career in the industry that I have always been passionate about. That led me to leave the firm and venture out to the concrete jungles of Lagos in a risky bid to pursue my interest in entertainment law practice. Few months later, I got an employment with Mavin Records as a Licensing Officer.

Did you always set out to study the law?

No. As a teenager, I had dreams of pursuing a career in rap music; which I was very good at if I may add. At that time, my understanding was that I couldn’t stake my whole life on rap music as a career path, as it was too risky so professionally, I wanted to study mass-communications as a fail-safe.

Why did you choose to practice Entertainment Law?

I have always been passionate about the creative arts, especially music. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by music of different genres and wondered about the creative processes that birthed them. By the time I was in secondary school, I had become convinced that I was going to be involved in the entertainment business, although it wasn’t quite clear to me at that time which part of the business I would be involved in. As a university undergraduate, my interest in entertainment began to meld with my growing passion for Law and it was only natural for me to gravitate towards the point where these two loves of mine met. This new direction led me to do a lot of research about the Nigerian entertainment industry, which then opened my eyes to the numerous problems plaguing entertainment industry practitioners due to piracy and other related issues that could be avoided if the intellectual property laws are properly enforced.

I also learnt about several opportunities and potential income streams which were lying fallow due to widespread ignorance in both the entertainment business and entertainment law practice. After my call to the Nigerian bar and getting some experience in a general practice law firm, Agbaje, Agbaje & Co., I had become convinced beyond a shadow of doubt that my purpose was to pursue a career in entertainment law.

Many might be curious about this question. How did you secure your position at Mavin? How was the recruitment exercise?

Sometime in 2016, I resigned from my job and moved to Lagos in search of an employment in Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Practice, the latter of which is not very popular in this part of the world. I made the move primarily to have a closer proximity to the nation’s main entertainment hub, but the decision soon proved to be a trying one. It was a very tough period for me, as I was unemployed, putting up with a friend and getting no response from the firms I applied to. During that period, I felt the need to further develop my Entertainment Law Practice skills, so rather than sit idly in wait of employment I decided to volunteer at a newly formed boutique law firm which focused mainly in entertainment law. This broadened my knowledge about music licensing and publishing and other related areas of entertainment law and exposed me to real life cases and situations which put a new reality to all my research in these areas.

After sometime, it happened that Mavin Records sought to start her own licensing department thereby creating an opening within the label for a lawyer with experience in music licensing and publishing. As God would have it, my name came up in a conversation and I was invited by a friend who worked with the label, to meet with the label’s Head of Operations.

The recruitment process was quite irregular. In the first couple of meetings with the Head of Operations, we were just engaged in very long and interesting conversations about the entertainment industry as a whole and the place of licensing and publishing in the industry’s future.

Thanks to my years of research, despite my relatively little experience at the time, I was able to impress the Head of Operations with my knowledge of the field, which was expressed casually in our conversation. After his interest was piqued, I was asked to draw up a framework of operations for newly formed licensing department.

It took me a couple of weeks and some research, to design this framework. My proposed framework/proposal was reviewed by the company and after sometime, I was informed that I had gotten the position of Licensing Officer. It was indeed a great moment. The risk I took by moving to Lagos had paid off in a way I couldn’t have anticipated.

Mavin Records is arguably one of the biggest record labels in Africa. What’s it like being the licensing officer/in-house counsel at the company?

Working as a Licensing Officer/ In-House counsel at Mavin Records, is quite interesting to say the least. For one, if you’re a fun-lover like me, there’s little to hate about getting complimentary invites to some of the biggest events Lagos. On a serious note, imagine giving legal advice to Don Jazzy and all these other accomplished artistes whose music you grew up dancing to. It can be surreal at times. Also, as you rightly said, Mavin is one of the biggest and most recognized labels on the continent so it’s greatly fulfilling to be able to play a part in the success and smooth running of this gargantuan machine.

What are your specific roles at Mavin Records?

Some of my specific roles include:

Drafting, reviewing and negotiating terms of licensing agreement for all artistes under the label.

Liaising with the label’s external counsel from time to time.

Working with the department’s royalty accountant to analyze royalties received to identify possible under payment.

Handling song disputes and other IP infringement claims.

Dealing with general enquiries regarding label’s claims to works and terms of label’s publishing and licensing agreements.

Drafting and reviewing other contracts like Artiste performance contract, Artiste endorsement contract, split sheet agreements, collaboration agreements, label partnerships etc.

Congratulations on the success of the Maiden edition of Entertainment Law Connect Conference. What inspired you to start this initiative?

Thank you.

Entertainment Law Connect was borne out of the need to develop the entertainment business structure and entertainment law practice in Nigeria. These two go hand-in-hand. The creative industry reportedly accounts for about 1.4% of the country’s GDP. It is a viable industry for investments. However, to reap the benefits of the industry, proper structures need to be put in place. This is what ELC aims to achieve. We are contributing our quota towards the development of the creative and entertainment industry by educating the stakeholders and lawyers on the importance of legal services for a properly structured industry.

In what way could entertainment law in Nigeria be rejigged to tackle the menace piracy and unfair distribution deals?

Tackling piracy requires serious enforcement of the already existing Copyright Laws. Even as physical content distribution is fast becoming extinct, opportunities sill exists for physical exploitation and there are still issues of physical piracy going on, so the industry still loses money to physical piracy. The Nigeria Copyright Commission is saddled with the responsibility of enforcing Copyright Laws by carrying out raids and prosecuting offenders. Beyond this however, lawyers needs to be more hands in ensuring that the commission takes these physical actions towards protecting their clients’ interests.

For online piracy, lawyers could conduct regular online search for infringement on their clients’ works and take down notices could be sent to the ISPs or Digital platforms through which such illegal exploitation takes place.

With regards to unfair distribution deals, content owners need to start hiring lawyers with the required skills in contract negotiation, experience and in-depth understanding of the dynamics of content distribution. Lawyers should know their clients’ target market to know the best platforms for distribution. Sharing ratio is often based on Artiste’s leverage. Lawyers should know their clients’ market value as this will help them get the right deals for their client.

What forms of intellectual property rights are entertainers eligible for and how can they be effectively monetised?

Entertainers are eligible for various forms of intellectual property rights. Some common IP works among Entertainers in this part of the world are music, films, literary work, which are protected by copyright and these are usually distributed both physically and digitally. For proper monetization, it’s important that artistes understands their market/audience and channel their promotions via the most relevant avenue to reach their audience. Another common IP right among entertainers in Nigeria is Trademark. Entertainers often trademark their names, names of their works, their logos and other works that fall under this category. The importance of proper IP protection cannot be overemphasized as this also secures owner’s economics rights within the IP work.

Leaving the law aside, what other areas interest you?

Like I said earlier, I love music and I find the creative process quite intriguing. I am interested in the monetization of musical contents and artiste branding. And just like I have done in the past, in the nearest future, I see myself picking up artiste managerial roles. I also enjoy interesting and high quality visual contents. Although the process of creating visual contents could be strenuous, the end product justifies the means. In the nearest future, I see myself in the business of visual production for commercial purposes, either as a producer, assistant producer or even as an executive producer.

A couple of law students are now showing interest in delving into the practise area of Entertainment law, particularly pertaining to Music. What prospects does this field hold and what counsel do you have for such enthusiastic students?

The Music and Media Industry in Nigeria has great prospects and by the virtue of this, Entertainment Law practice creates opportunities for lawyers. The major challenge however is inadequate industry structure and this makes it difficult for most lawyers to function effectively in the industry, as their efforts are often frustrated by some the industry stakeholders. However, through continuous education and awareness, more stakeholders are learning to understand that the success of the industry lies to a significant extent in the hands on professionals like lawyers who can help put in a standard structure to the industry. In view of this, I strongly believe that the field holds major prospects for lawyers who are willing to put in the work necessary for self-development by acquiring relevant education in this area. My counsel to enthusiastic students is that, beyond the IP courses they are taught in school, further research is very important. Students also need to go out and network, look for internship opportunities and even volunteer to work in the industry at their free time.

Any final words?

To succeed, young lawyers need to know what they are passionate about and build a career out of this.

The importance of self-development/personal research in entertainment law practice cannot be overemphasized, as our school curriculum do not adequately cater to entertainment law studies.

Networking is also very important for lawyers looking too get into the industry.

In conclusion, follow @entlawconnect on IG, FB & Twitter.