August 26, 2013 4937 VIEWS

Monday, August 26, 2013 10:35 AM / Dr. Theophilus Olusegun Obayemi, II*


This author, a California based attorney with wide knowledge of laws governing movie productions and entertainment industry, grew up in Nigeria fascinated, mesmerized and besotted by renowned Nigerian artistes such as Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala), Chief Zebrudaya (Alias 4.30), Jegede Sokoya, Eleyinmi, John Medntah (Cock Crows at Dawn), amongst others. In recent years, I have been accosted by Ghanaians, South Africans, Kenyans, etc with comments saluting the prowess of modern-day Nigerian artistes like Mofe Damijo, Osuofia, Genevieve Nnaji and the rest


The Nigerian Nollywood (fashioned after Beverly Hills’ Hollywood) remains an all-comers affair. Thus, in this paper, we propose legal steps towards regulating the Nigerian burgeoning entertainment industry. Within a spate of 2 decades, we have moved from television drama to home video.


Generally, in legal terms, the production of a movie can be segregated into the following stages: (a) Development; (b) Pre-Production; (c) Production; (d) Post-Production; and (e) Delivery [Wrap].


As an attorney, I am faced with issues relating to (a). Business and Investment Structure; (b) Financing and Investment Issues; (c) Copyright and Intellectual Property Issues and (d) Working with Employee Groups and Unions.


In drafting an agreement relating to the business structure, one needs to be concerned with control, financing, corporate/personal liability and tax benefits and obligations. Generally, we advise the movie producers to choose the Limited Liability Corporation similar to the private companies (“PC”) under section 22 of the Nigerian Companies and Allied Matters Act (“CAMA”). With a PC, the film producer enjoys the shield of corporation—i.e., there is no personal liability. The PC will be used to develop, produce, own and exploit the movie as well as all incidental and ancillary rights. The private company—PC can also sell its shares to select few to raise capital—provided the Securities and Exchange Act and other laws (where foreigners are involved) are complied with.


Once this is dealt with we move to the creative basis of the movie—the acquisition of rights, privileges and interests in the intellectual property. The Nigerian Copyright Act and the Trademark Act provide for the creation of rights in books, screenplays, and rights in biographies and autobiographies.


It is at this stage that we advise the producers to make provisions for two (2) potential legal issues: (a) negotiation of option periods with the owner of the copyright and/or intellectual property and (b) issues bothering on defamation and invasion of privacy rights.


Producing a movie based on Life and Times of General Chukwuemeka Odimegwu ojukwu, for instance may involve negotiating with ambassador Biancah Onoh-Ojukwu band other family members on the subject of the movie. We may focus on the Biafran story only and leave the late General’s courageous disobedience of his father’s mandate that he join the Ojukwu business empire. If the 1st movie is successful, we may then do another movie, by exercising our option to make a sequel movie on the conflict over the property at Victoria Island with Governor Gbolahan Mudasiru or the late Ojukwu’s foray into politics upon his pardon.


Because the late Ojukwu has extended family members and many colleagues and supporters and foes during the Biafran war, a movie on his life would probably involve “stepping on toes” and thus require negotiating contracts limiting invasion of privacy and defamation claims by others.


To take care of interests of everybody as best as we can and to minimize legal disputes, we may need to re-write the plots


Following this, we have to negotiate several contracts with actors, directors and other supporting casts. We need experts for soundtracks, picture production, computerized enlargement and reduction of photos and films.


Sufficient insurance coverages and workers’ compensation insurance must be in place. The death of the late Music Pop Star—Michael Jackson, during the production of his comeback music album in 2010 is still fresh in our minds.


The use of Coogan Accounts is highly favored where the artiste is a minor—the account ensures that the guardians do not use the money anyhow without consent. The account is blocked and a court order is needed to make withdrawals


Next, we obtain permits from the cities, state and governmental agencies where aspects of the movies would be filmed in restricted places, such as Army Barracks, Highways or Prisons.


Upon the completion of the filming, we ensure that the producers acquire intellectual property rights on the finished product


Thereafter, we enter into further agreements with the distributors, Cinema Houses and international counterparts to ensure that royalties and fees are paid as at when due.


Undoubtedly, Nigeria is in the enviable position as it is presently occupying the primary position in Africa in terms of Movie making. Nigerian artistes have carved their niche, especially, Richard Mofe Damijo, Late Justus Esiri, Olu Jacob and his wife, Joke Silva, Kunle Bamtefa, Olumide Bakare, etc


Clear regulations governing the entertainment industry will further enhance the benefits of strident achievements already in place to be enjoyed by all practitioners in the movie making industry.


* Dr. Theophilus Olusegun Obayemi, II, from Oakland California, offers consultancy services on movie production regulations and entertainment industry laws He can be reached vide -   

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