Law & Policy, Music Business

Did Artist Dencia “Suck, Suck, Suck” the Air Out of her Music Career on Reality TV Video Clip?

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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.

The Law

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

Beyonce ‘Black is King’ Roundtable (Full Video)

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
For legal representation inquiries, please email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com). For blog related inquiries i.e. advertising, licensing, or guest interview requests, please email (africamusiclaw@gmail.com). Thank you for visiting Africa Music Law™.

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3 Comments

  1. kenny says:

    So I watched that video,and honestly is it just me but I don’t find anything wrong with it.we all eat sausage,she was just blind folded and testing stuff,it looks like comedy to me and it looks very scripted.but damn ol girl can probably give bomb head.again I don’t think anything was wrong with it except you are a pevert.

  2. interesting read, but I’ll just like to say your statement about Nigerian/Ghanaian promoters is unfair. Frankly I am tired of the Amber Roses and Kim Ks of the world (regardless of how sexy they may look), but the home/away principle is very real, informally it implies that some things can be tolerated the further away from home they are for you, sad but true. I won’t go into details of connecting the scenarios of hiring an Amber Rose over a Dencia and what have you, that is not the point. The point is every nation is hypocritical about what is socially responsible at certain points, sometimes we turn it on, sometimes we turn it off, America too is guilty of it.

    1. Africamusiclaw says:

      Hmmm . . . Interesting point @IamEbixx. A few months ago, X-rated sexually explicit images of Amber Rose was released online. At the height of that release, Nigerian promoters were still comfortable with flying Amber Rose to Nigeria for ‘Music Meets the Runway’ show. But for Amber Rose allegedly reneging on her contract, the show would have continued with her as the host. Arguably and as a society, we are less tolerant of our own being that sexually in your face like Amber Rose. Dencia is Cameroonian and it is in dispute whether she is Nigerian. But either way, as an African, I doubt African promoters in Africa, especially in Ghana and Nigeria, since my blog focuses on those markets, would be as tolerant given the exact same set of facts as the Amber Rose facts or even these facts. We are not as forgiving with our own.
      Thanks for your comment.

      Cheers,
      Uduak

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