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TOPE SALAMI: Artistes hardly survive without entertainment lawyers
About five years out of Law School, Tope Salami specialises in entertainment law. Salami, who is in his early 20s and the first of four children, in this interview with ELIZABETH OLATUNDUN, speaks on growing up, the importance of artistes having an entertainment lawyer, among other issues. Excerpts
CAN you tell us about your growing up years?
Growing up was just like a conventional way every average Nigerian child grew up. Things were tough, but I thank God for the grace and strength he bestowed upon my father and mother to train myself and my siblings. I attended the University of Ilorin to study law. Upon graduating from the University of Ilorin in 2013, I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School and graduated in the year 2014.
How did you begin your journey to becoming an entertainment lawyer?
The journey of law, particularly entertainment law, started a long time ago, before I was called to the Nigerian Bar Association. As the president of Law Students Society, University of Ilorin, I was a lover of arts and I was able to understand the urgent attention needed to safeguard the interest of our creatives. I would say that was how the journey to entertainment law started.
Did your background in anyway influence who you are today?
I would say my background did not influence my choice to become an entertainment lawyer but it actually influenced me to study law, work hard and try everything legally possible to survive in this economy because growing up was ridiculously tough. But I am thankful to my parents who never gave up on training us.
How long have you been in this field?
I have been in the practice of entertainment law as a professional since 27th November 2014, and various local and international conferences have given me the necessary exposure to sustain the practice.
So, what’s basically your work as an entertainment lawyer?
As an entertainment lawyer, the main duty is to safeguard the interest of my clients in all ramifications. The duties include drafting and review of contracts and other important documents on behalf of clients, negotiating on behalf of clients, registration of clients’ intellectual properties via copyright, trademarks and patent, regulatory compliances, representing clients in meetings, courts and other quasi -judicial setup, among other key roles.
You once said most artistes don’t know there are entertainment lawyers. Can you shed more light on this?
Yeah, most artistes or creatives tend to assume that once you are a lawyer, then you must be able to practice all areas of law, entertainment law inclusive and that usually gets them into serious trouble. This tells us that some creatives are not aware that professional entertainment lawyers do exist in Nigeria. However, one of the advantages of a creative engaging an entertainment lawyer is the issue of structure, checks and balances to make sure the business of the entertainer is in line with international best practices which brings about sustainability to the creatives. An entertainment lawyer will plan your craft with you to ensure you for constant monetisation. You would realise most of our big entertainers go broke after some period. Move close to them and ask them what their major regrets was and I am absolutely sure they would say the regrets of not having a team and an entertainment lawyer to put them through.
How would you assess the practice of entertainment law in Nigeria?
The practice of entertainment law in Nigeria is at its infancy stage due to our inactive legislations particularly, the old laws and lack of active enforcement mechanism etc. However, same will not get better until all the laws governing this area of law are properly made in line with the current trend, whilst also making rooms for some possible future trends in the global market. Though the gospel of entertainment law is better than what we had three decades ago.
So, with the trend where many entertainers now prefer to own their management, how well do you think an artiste can survive without entertainment lawyers?
Firstly, let me sound a note of warning to all creatives and which is, ‘get an entertainment lawyer in all your dealing.’ No industry can survive without a proper frame work and a proper frame work includes practitioners of that particular industry. For this case, it is the entertainment Industry and entertainment lawyers. Hence, I doubt if the entertainment industry can ever survive without entertainment lawyers. Of course, it might exist but its growth would always be static and lack the well-deserved progress in line with the numbers of talent in place.
Why do you think artistes should have an entertainment lawyer?
Entertainers and other creatives need entertainment lawyers for the general protection of their interest with respect to the business of entertainment and its ancillary field. A good entertainment lawyer not only represents, he also manages his client and their resources for sustainability. Watch an entertainer or a creative that has an entertainment lawyer in his team, such will always be distinct.
Would you say you are fulfilled with what you do?
Fulfilment is a process, so I am still in the process of getting fulfilled. Once I am fulfilled, the world will know because I want my fulfilment to impact on lives.
What would you say are the challenges of entertainment lawyers?
The first and major challenge of entertainment lawyers will be lack of proper enforcement structure or mechanism. Then, followed by the old and archaic legislations still in operation. Also, the challenge of not having a distinct Intellectual property courts with experienced judges in intellectual property poses a great problem because litigating in our general court rooms is so frustrating.
Being an entertainment lawyer, how do you think the industry can improve?
Being an entertainment lawyer, the industry can develop with the amendment or repeal of major intellectual property legislations to strengthen its enforceability and other key areas, provision of available and not too stringent or tedious loan facilities to all creatives for cordial investment in the industry, etc.
If you were not doing this, what would you have been doing?
If I was not practicing law, I would still be in the industry, acting.
What motivates you as a person?
The principle of self- survival motivates me the most. That is, when you know you just have to survive any which way, then you work hard and motivate yourself amidst all kinds of frustration as a young lawyer in Nigeria.
How do you relax? What are your hobbies?
I relax by sleeping, going to the cinemas and playing my Play Station game.
With you being around artistes, do you have plans to go fully into entertainment?
Well, I am already in the entertainment industry but I someday plan to have my own entertainment outfit to further push Nigeria and Africa to the world because my consultancy with most of the entertainment firms in Nigeria indicates that we have it all here in Africa, but will not be able proceed to the next phase till we see entertainment and its industry as a business and something that can develop a nation.
TOPE SALAMI: Artistes hardly survive without entertainment lawyers