Artists, be careful what you do in desperation for fame. Anything you do can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion, and depending on the facts, a court of law. Here in the USA, there are so many reality TV shows. We are so good at it, we’ve exported and exploited our reality TV shows world wide. Specific to Nigeria, we have exported shows like American Idol (Nigerian Idol), The Apprentice (Apprentice Africa), among others. They have been, largely, very successful. I personally have auditioned for a reality TV show.
In 2005, I auditioned for a TV reality series called ‘The Law Firm.’ I was so excited about the show because I looooooooooooooooooove any and all things to do with the law. I am a law junkie. The writer for ‘The Law Firm’ was the same writer that wrote the hit legal TV series ‘The Practice,’ one of my favorite television shows of all time. I made it as one of the semifinalist for ‘The Law Firm’ before I was cut. The show ultimately aired but only lasted for two weeks. Below is the description:
“The Law Firm is an hour-long reality television series that premiered on NBC on July 28, 2005. In the series, twelve young up-and-coming trial lawyers competed for a grand prize of $250,000.
At the end of each show, attorney Roy Black decided which two competitors were the weakest and needed to be dismissed, using the catchphrase “The verdict is in. You’re out.”
The series was cancelled by NBC after two weeks on the air due to weak ratings but its remaining episodes were aired on the cable network, Bravo.” -Wikipedia
When you audition for a reality TV show, you potentially could give up your rights to have the producers and directors of the show do whatever they like with the footage they have shot of you. This includes the right to tell your story how they deem fit; including playing with camera angles and even altering images/footage in an effort to portray you a certain way. Always get a lawyer to review a reality TV contract you will sign.
In our case below, I saw the video clip a while back but could not be bothered to click “play.” On Facebook, I recently saw artist Duncan Daniels post the same clip and write statements of shock to accompany his status update. Curious what the fuss was all about, I clicked through and “wow!”
I’ll let you watch it below.
The Public Relations/Media Perspective
What does this mean for Dencia? Well, if Dencia can package herself like Amber Rose, then this will not be a big deal. Sex sells and today’s society seems the least bit concerned about what is or is not morally right. Indeed that is why Dencia can say she is willing to do whatever it takes, including suck all kinds of things and objects, to be on TV.
If Dencia runs into African promoters who are hypocritical i.e. they will pay Amber Rose to fly to Nigeria or Ghana to host events but they will want to play holier art thou with Dencia, then she should expect condemnation, criticism, taunts, teasing etc.
Is there hope for Dencia and persons like her? Yes.
Where? How? The lawyers, folks. The lawyers. Your lawyers and accountants, in your professional careers, should be the people you want the closest to you.
Artists and non-artists alike do very very stupid things to mess up their lives. As lawyers, we try very hard not to judge. When hired, we step in to fix the mess i.e. make the problems go away. Independent of fixing people’s mess, we also fight for justice. It is a very honorable profession if you ask me.
In this instance, how could the law and lawyers help Dencia?
1. We would need to know whether Dencia signed a release when she auditioned for her role. If the answer is yes, then what exactly did she sign? Did she sign a release that gave the producers the right to do whatever they chose to do with the footage they shot of her? This means did she give her consent? If the answer is yes? What kind of consent did she exactly give?
2. Here, we want to know a bit more about whether she consented to an online distribution of her image, name, voice and likeness. If the answer is “no,” which it most likely is, then the smart lawyer would know to contact the producers etc. to take that mess down immediately, and also inform that if they don’t, it is about to be legal war zones in court. Why? It is the argument that Eminem and Chuck D used in the music arena and that many in the music industry are now looking to use. Basically, we may have given you a worldwide rights to our works but we never specifically gave you digital distribution rights.
In Dencia’s case, there would be an argument to be made that while she gave them a right to use her image, name, likeness, voice etc., the use exceeds the scope of what was actually granted and it should not be marketed or distributed online. This is Tort Law and specifically ‘Right of Publicity’ and Contract Law, specifically ‘Breach of Contract’ all colliding at once.
The producers will argue that through it all, she consented to the way they have used her image, voice, name and likeness. But note Dencia says, “I’ll do anything to be on TV.” In addition, the producers tell her “this is for regular TV.” So, distribution online was, arguably, not part of the negotiation. It was strictly for television.
Watch Dencia’s clip below and then get caught in my interview on Right of Publicity statute with a legal colleague of mine below:
ARTIST BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU IN DESPERATION FOR FAME. ANYTHING YOU DO CAN AND WILL BE — USED AGAINST YOU IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION, AND DEPENDING ON THE FACTS, IN A COURT OF LAW.
Right of Publicity