MUSIC & THE LAW: Reasons why Artists need Lawyers – Hamza Ssekamate

Artists and lawyers don’t have a ton of opportunities to work together, but when it comes to taking your art business to the next level, you’re going to want a lawyer in tow. Once you’re working as a successful artist, and your name is becoming more and more prolific, there are going to be plenty of roadblocks – and the potential for pitfalls – along the way. From not understanding the explicit terms of a contract to failing to register your copyright or trademark and losing millions of Ugandan shillings in the process, or even defending against claims or potential lawsuits involving your work, there are plenty of reasons why an artist would want to hire a lawyer. We talked to Hamza Ssekamate who is the Legal Assistant under the Litigation Department at Arcadia advocates on why Ugandan artists really need to have legal advocates who can represent their interest.

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“Many lawyers do some sort of pro bono work or offer reduced rates for causes they are interested in. I recommend finding a lawyer even if you’re just starting out. At least, keep one on your radar and understand that lawyers aren’t there to just help you out of a jam. It’s good to have one on board as a counselor or trusted advisor.” – Hamza Ssekamate first echoed out.

Your studio is flooded. All your work is destroyed. And you don’t have insurance. Most artists begin relationships with lawyers when something catastrophic happens. Don’t wait! It’s much better to find a lawyer before you find yourself in hot water.

From trademark dilemmas to litigation woes, it’s important for artists to know when and why to consult a lawyer. Hamza SSekamate explains 4 common situations when a Ugandan artist should seek legal counsel to protect his or her creative output and livelihood.

1. Contract Review – Make Sure You’re Getting What You Deserve!

Having a lawyer to consult and trust in when it comes to contract signing is one of the biggest benefits for musicians who hire entertainment lawyers. Since contracts in this field can deal with huge amounts of money and can span several years, signing without a professional on your side is not something you want to risk doing. No matter what type of contract it is, and no matter how big or small the agreement might be, it is always in your best interest to have a music lawyer review it before signing.

Artists often need help setting up a contract template they can modify. And if something unusual occurs, it’s helpful to have a lawyer that you can call. If you didn’t have a lawyer create a contract, it’s a good idea to have them review the contract. You don’t have to have a lawyer on retainer, but it’s nice to have someone you can call who can do a quick contract review. You don’t want to be searching for a lawyer for the first time when signing a contract with a record label, or anyone interested to do business with you . And these could be the common contracts for any Uganda artist:

Record Label Contract

If you hope to be a famous Ugandan musician one day, you’ve probably heard of a record label contract. These contracts give musicians money in exchange for their rights to the music they make with the contracted record label. These agreements usually establish the amount an artist can expect to be paid, how long the agreement lasts, and how many records must be produced during the duration of the contract.

These contracts also include vital details about the terms surrounding financial streams that music creates, such as:

  • Record sales
  • Merchandise sales
  • Touring

Intellectual Property License

When an entertainment lawyer files for an intellectual property license, it makes using the music without properly compensating the artist illegal. In more specific terms, an intellectual property license indicates that a licensor (the musician) must give permission to the user (licensee) before their property can be used legally. Gaining permission to use an artist’s intellectual property usually involves paying a fee.

Sync License

A synchronization license, or sync license for short, is an agreement between the owner of a song and someone that wants to use it alongside a video. Sync licensing allows for legal use of copyrighted songs with pre-approval.

Booking Agreement

When a musician goes on tour, they visit many different cities. For each venue, there is a booking agreement that outlines the details of the event. These details often include:

  • Date and time information
  • Location
  • Compensation

Booking agreements exist to protect both parties and makes sure that everyone holds up their end of the deal. Like other types of contracts, booking agreements also include details about what happens when someone violates the contract or what can be done in the event of a cancellation.

Exclusive Rights Agreement

Music lawyers don’t only work for singers and songwriters. They are also valuable tools for music producers and composers as well. Exclusive rights agreements accompany music productions or compositions and serve as a written guarantee that the piece of music will not be sold to anyone else – it is exclusive to the purchaser.

2. Trademark and Copyright – Prevent Others From Using Your Work.

Artists need help doing a trademark or copyright. They need that type of advice from a lawyer or they can find themselves in litigation. People will also take artists’ music, art, design, or photos and post them on social media channels, streaming channels or web pages. It’s something that you need to monitor because you need to defend a trademark or copyright or you can lose the right to assert it. It can be resolved with a demand letter for payment to the person who’s using your art inappropriately or illegally. You can also send a cease and desist letter to have your work removed.

3. Litigation – Try to Avoid a Lawsuit.

Usually litigation surrounds someone not paying you. It doesn’t necessarily mean a lawsuit, but some artists don’t explore the alternatives. You can engage a lawyer and tell them the facts. They will spend one to two hours drafting a demand letter to the offending individual. It’s nice to have someone that you can go to because issues will arise.

4. Slander and Libel – Remove the Online Attacks.

Artists can be involved in slander and libel on social media. You have to be careful. Be aware anything can be posted about you and many things you post can be accessed by many people. If you have a bad transaction with a promoter or any client, people can post about it on social media. These comments can be considered slander. Artists can use a lawyer to draft a cease and desist letter – essentially saying stop doing what you’re doing.

How Much Does a Music Lawyer Cost In Uganda?

Contracts in the entertainment industry can get long, complicated, and confusing. The good news is music lawyers like Hamza Ssekamate are well-versed in reading, editing, and making sure these contracts benefit any Ugandan artist. However, there is a price that you must pay for that expertise.

Since entertainment lawyers worldwide are highly specialized professionals who focus on high-profile contracts and agreements, the price tag associated with contracting with a music lawyer can be high, ranging anywhere from $300-$1,000 per contract depending on the lawyer’s hourly rate.

Even though the cost of working with a music lawyer might sound high, remember that an investment in professional help is an investment in yourself and in your craft. Having a professional who knows the ins and outs of the legal climate of the music industry could be the difference between your success and failure.

Don’t Wait!

These small measures and expenses can save you a lot of money and headaches down the road. Also, most lawyers do some sort of pro bono work or reduced rates for causes they are interested in, like art. So, find a lawyer you can call before issues arise.

To get in touch with Hamza SSekamate, send an email on ssekamatehamza@gmail.com or direct call on +256 702 207 620.

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