Film Law: US Lawyer Mealdred Okwo Threatens, on Twitter, to take Jason Njoku’s IROKO TV to the “Cleaners”

In Celebrities Behaving Badly, Film Business by Africa Music Law™1 Comment

Mealdred OkwoI met Mealdred Okwo about 2006 in Los Angeles at a Nollywood film event I helped organize.

At the time, there was something clear about Mealdred. She was a straight shooter, a woman unafraid to express herself. There was no mincing words and you did not have to guess where she stood on any topic. For me, I find straight shooters (male or females) to be mightily attractive.

In contrast, I am quite uncomfortable with passive aggressive people and find, in my personal experience, they can be quite dangerous because they can laugh in your face but stab you at the back, and lose no sleep over it. Any time, any day, I will take a straight shooter like Mealdred over a passive aggressive person.

I also strongly believe straight shooters  like Mealdred should not have to “dumb down” their personalities to appease others or make others feel “less intimidated.” You feel intimidated because of your insecurities. Deal with it. No one is going to/should walk around on eggshells so you will not get your “feelings hurt.”

Yes. You guessed right. I share a similar straight shooter DNA kind of personality trait with Mealdred.

In any event, back to when I met Mealdred. At the time, she had just debuted her movie 30days or was about to which starred Genevieve Nnaji and New York based Nigerian actor Chet Anekwe. Mealdred was also a practicing attorney and shortly after, shut down her legal practice and relocated to Nigeria to pursue her passion for film.

I have been paying attention to her works, as I have other professionals in Nollywood for a while now, and I have been quite happy to see her progress. I think after you have lived in the diaspora for twenty (20) years and established a career for yourself, to pack your bags and return to Nigeria is a rather bold and scary move. To settle in Nigeria and achieve what she has done is highly commendable.

About two-half years ago, Mealdred co-launched a film company called Audrey Silva with Nollywood Actress Rita Dominic. The duo  just produced their first major film “The Meeting.” The “Meeting,” by all accounts, has been successful. Audrey Silva is quite an ambitious company because they want to be a one stop shop for all things film related. Here is how Mealdred describes her company in an interview she gave last year.

“Apart from production arm of TASC which specialises in film, television documentaries and stage production, the company also has a distribution arm that deals with cinema and DVD releases, television licensing as well as website distribution. A third subsidiary, TASC Lifestyle, handles publishing, merchandising, events and artists development whilst a fourth division, would be taking care of Internet protocol television based offering and direct beam to handheld devices. Quite an ambitious undertaking, one would say, but for us at TASC, the mission is to create a little bit of structure in order to be able streamline things.” – The Guardian Nigeria

Today, Mealdred got on twitter and went off on IROKO TV threatening to “take (them) to the cleaners.”

I have a problem with this from every angle I see it.

Here is my problem with her action on twitter:

1. I am unsure what capacity Mealdred is speaking from. If she speaks as a filmmaker, why is she threatening Iroko to take Iroko to the “cleaners?” What gives her the authority to do so? Beyond it being inappropriate to make sure threats, especially on twitter, a fellow professional’s work is allegedly being infringed on; the affected individual can hire a licensed attorney in Nigeria to handle his legal affairs. If Mealdred is licensed so that she can take his matter, I doubt the man who shared his issues with IROKO expected it to be handled the way she has on twitter. Am I missing something?

I am not a fan of Nigerians or anyone for that matter getting on social media attacking/ and or making threats to sue someone else who has wronged them etc. You literally just do it and we see the evidence or you fall back on the noise. I didn’t like it when IROKO did it to Afrinolly and I sure don’t care for it now that Mealdred is doing it to IROKO.

2. If she is speaking in a capacity of an attorney whose client’s work is allegedly being infringed on, then I really have a problem with her conduct on twitter. Keep the private matters of your client private and do what you need to do behind closed doors. Why does the world need to know what your client discussed with you privately??? There are rules about this both in the US and Nigeria (aren’t) there? When you sue, then send a release, or call a press conference, if you are so inclined and let us legal bloggers, journalists, bloggers et al. know what you did.

NOTE: There is no showing that this person is Mealdred’s client or that she has been retained to represent him whether in Nigeria or the USA.

IROKO TV & ALLEGED COPYRIGHT/IP INFRINGEMENT

I am not a fan of IROKO and I have made it unequivocally clear. The allegations by Mealdred are not unusual as I have heard, and also experienced it.  I think Jason Njoku saw an issue in Nigeria’s film industry and his service fixed the problem in the market place.

I applaud him and his staff for all of their hard work to even make others realize that there was such a market like IROKO’s. Who did the grunt work before IROKO? Truthfully, no one. After him, everyone wants to come in and claim and also hate his guts for being where he is.

However, I think as a leader, he needs to show he has some form of emotional intelligence and that it is not just about crunching numbers.  He also needs a strong legal arm to focus on copyright clearances inhouse and to come up with a system that ensures clearances of all photos, videos, visual arts, images etc. in IROKO.

Further, Jason  must show the content providers i.e. Nigeria/Africa’s creative communities that he is committed to the growth of the creative industries, while still keeping his eyes on his bottom line.

I find, in my view, this is sorely lacking and if he continues in this vein, what lies ahead i.e. lawsuits, competitors tuned in to this void, may spell the brand’s demise.

I also acknowledge that this might be something very hard for Jason to do, given information he has shared, in the past,  on his blog about his personal upbringing i.e. his hardknock life in the UK. When you have had to figure things out on your own as a young boy and been rejected so many times before success hits, you can become seemingly cold and protective of yourself, which ultimately transfers into your brand.

Our brands/businesses and how we run them reflects our value system as entrepreneurs. You can’t give what you don’t have.

Nevertheless, and despite what IROKO may have allegedly done wrong, Mealdred’s specific threat of taking IROKO “to the cleaners,” on twitter , to me,  is inappropriate, especially as a member of the bar and worse  if her role is in fact an attorney for this person alleging infringement. It is also especially “off putting” considering Audrey Silva is a potential competitor with IROKO, given its description of services mentioned above.

3. Finally, AML people you all already know this but it bears repeating. Anything you say on social media, especially as a public figure, can be used against you both in a court of public opinion and in a court of law. In a court of law, it can be evidence or showing of libel/defamation etc. You don’t want it out there, keep it on a leash and resolve your issues quietly or hire an attorney to sue for millions of Naira/dollars/pounds and get the media and public buzzing.

Read her tweet from bottom up below.

-Uduak

(NOTE: Folks I am unsure why some of my posts keep having “comment closed” on them! A bit frustrating. Anyone here good with wordpress please email me (africamusiclaw@gmail.com). Everyone else, please bear with me as I figure it out. Tweet at me @uduaklaw or write on AML facebook page to let me know what you think. Thanks.)

Former US Lawyer Mealdred Okwo Threatens to Take Jason Njoku's IROKO TV to the Cleaners

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