The courts have long afforded protection to the wrongful use of private information; it penalizes the improper use of information disclosed by one person to another in confidence.
The Media and Entertainment Law as a substratum of Law practice is considered undeveloped or non-existent in major quarters, how far from the truth can those who subscribe to that notion be?, Nigeria remains a Nation with innumerable legislations, perhaps we are only deficient at enforcing same.
Media and Entertainment Law practice is immediate, racy, fast-moving and liable to change at a moment’s notice, and only a handful of lawyers have built the capacity to keep pace with this niche market. The Media and Entertainment industry is peopled by numerous practitioners, undeniably so, it is innate that in the course of dealings certain nutty issues are encountered as it is in every sphere of human interaction.
These issues sometimes have interesting legal twists wrapped around it and only lawyers experienced in this field of practice can decipher them The above-mentioned industry is by far the biggest beneficiary of the internet’s advent. Not only national but international newspapers can be read online, but we can also receive or disseminate information and by extension entertainment via Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and YouTube.
Flowing from the enormous powers the industry wields as custodians of thoughts, information, amusement and opinions, it is only expected, and rightly so, that such powers are wielded with some degree of responsibility. This piece, in a nutshell, highlights the legal implications of the leaking of data in the Nigerian entertainment space – pictures, conversations, songs, videos etc. the concepts woven around this issue will include right to freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of expression, media practices, right to privacy and breach of confidence.
As a democracy, and historically, Nigeria inherits a large fraction of its legal system, laws and legislations from the British Legal system. In England, the Magna Carta (1215) guarantees as a canon of liberty the “right to free speech”. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly; its main aim was to promote human, civil, economic and social rights, including freedom of expression and religion, amongst all subscribing nations.
Additionally, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 (ICCPR) recognizes the right to freedom of speech as the “right to hold opinion without interference”. In Nigeria, Press Freedom, Freedom of Thought, Freedom of Expression and Right to Privacy are rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Part IV as Fundamental inalienable rights (Sections 36, 37 and 39) and accordingly guaranteed. What behoves on all citizens and entities will be juxtaposing these rights and not breaching same inordinately.
The rights as provided by the Constitution are to be exploited within legitimate confines. The ability and opportunity afforded journalists and media agencies should not hamper the prosperity of the lot of an ordinary lawful citizen. The most recent case of leaking suitable for an expose is the unauthorized publishing of a private conversation between Dr Sid, Davido, Wande Coal, Special Ed and the likes, here are the pertinent issues that beggar meaningful answers.
I will proffer answers in a nutshell.
a. Does Dr. Sid have a right to express himself? Can you express your displeasure in the confines of a room where there are a handful of label mates and other affiliates? Yes, he does have the right to complain and murmur where he deemed fit, don’t we all do that? The only snag might be discussing a label’s internal wranglings with outsiders.
b. Was Dr. Sid’s ranting and complaints for public consumption? Objectively speaking I’d doubt this. Letting up steam when problems are being discussed or shared is said to be therapeutic, the Doctor was consulting with his make-shift shrinks.
c. Did he reasonably believe he was not being recorded (taped) and had confidence reposed in all personalities present that the words spoken would not get out of the room? I am sure Dr. Sid would have acted differently if he saw the recording device.
d. Can he claim that his right to privacy has been breached? Very doubtful, will hardly succeed as it is contentious that this instance is covered by the provisions of Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
e. Is the leak justified? Who got paid to Leak the conversation? Justification is relative, if facts emerge to suggest that mischief or monetary advantages predicated the leaking of this conversation that adds a different coloration to the whole brouhaha.
f. Has the leak injured his right to publicity? Yes, I repeat, yes! Dr Sid has been showered with expletives(from fans of Dbanj) that could detract from his goodwill; he is now perceived as a catalyst in the collapse of the Mohits hegemony. The tweets that followed the aftermath of the publication of the leaked conversation attest to this.
g. Was the publication by the blogs and magazine in the interest of the Public? Its riddled with grey areas, the media would argue that it was already in the public domain before the leak that Dbanj and Dr. Sid never had a chummy relationship, that the in-fighting was severally reported and that they had a duty to set the facts right, hence the leaking of the conversation.
h. Was there a breach of confidence? The courts have long afforded protection to the wrongful use of private information; it penalizes the improper use of information disclosed by one person to another in confidence. A breach occurs where there has been an unauthorized use or disclosure.
On a final note, media rights and practices should irrespective of the craze for sensationalism recognize the existence of an entertainer’s right to publicity and the likelihood of him suing when information obtained in confidence is published without due authorization, more so, when such publication is capable of causing severe damage to the reputation and goodwill of the entertainer.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed as the drama unfolds. It is high time a journalist, colleague or ally is held accountable for this sort of premeditated mischief.
Akinyemi Ayinoluwa comments on areas of Entertainment Law, Media Law and intellectual property, he tweets from @akinyemilaw.