My Kingston Ron YoungSunday, September 15, 2019
Ron Young Entertainment Lawyer
Tell us about your childhood.
I had a great childhood and grew up in College Common on the UWI campus, where my parents worked. I have two brothers, so even when we weren't running the streets with friends, we were giving each other trouble.
What were some of the most memorable moments growing up?
Two memories stand out. First, spending summer days at the UWI pool. That was where all the surrounding neighbours came to relax, eat, drink and play. Where we could invite school friends and girls we had a crush on. The second was the annual Christmas celebration in the park where one of the parents would dress as Santa and give tokens to the kids. When we got older, we continued the tradition for the younger generation.
Where did you attend high school?
Campion College, which during my time had a great football team, believe it or not. I also spent a year of high school at West Hill Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Ontario. That was a culture shock but being exposed to new places and cultures is never a bad thing.
What prompted your decision to study law?
I had been involved in entertainment since age 17 — party promotion, artist development, music video production. I obtained first-class honours in English and history and was awarded a scholarship to pursue an MA in English and started it. However, I soon lost interest and went back to event management. I knew that I wanted to remain in the entertainment industry. One of my best friends, Mike Deans, was about to start law school and he encouraged me to join him. So I figured, why not entertainment law? I now practise in many different areas of law, but entertainment law is central to my practice.
Speak about being one of the few entertainment lawyers in Jamaica.
It is great to be someone that people consider as an authority in an area. At the time I decided to go this route, there were even fewer persons practising it. But it was in my bones and came naturally. Don't get me wrong, it was a lot of reading, practice and work, but I enjoy it.
Would you like to see the status quo change?
Some persons try to keep others out of an area in which they believe they have a strong presence. I am not one of those persons. I have always encouraged young lawyers who say they have an interest in the area. My view is that with more entertainment lawyers, the entertainment industry becomes more professional, and it is easier for artistes, producers, athletes to gain good representation. It is also easier for me to negotiate with persons who speak the same language.
Nowadays, the terms copyright, trademark and patent are bandied about. What is the essence of each and the differences in how they relate to each other?
So to simplify the concepts — copyright relates to the protection of your artistic, musical, dramatic or literary creations — books, music, movies, performances. A trademark is a sign, logo or mark that identifies your product or business as unique from any other — the Nike swoosh or Apple logo, for example. A patent is an exclusive right to a unique invention or process — there are patents for Bluetooth technology, self-driving cars and the iPhone.
In the burgeoning creative economy, how can young creatives protect their intellectual property?
Here are three simple tips:
1. Keep good records of your creation — properly label your CDs and photographs; safely keep electronic and hard copies of your novel; keep diagrams and descriptions of your invention.
2. Use a trusted method of recording evidence of ownership of your creation. For example, you can register your sound recording or composition, trademark or patent with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO).
3. If you wish to talk to entities or individuals about your work for possible business, have them sign a good confidentiality agreement that acknowledges your rights in the creation and obligates them to secrecy.
What is the role of an entertainment lawyer?
The role of a good entertainment lawyer is to protect an entertainer's financial interests by educating them on their legal rights and potential income streams. Helping them to avoid the common pitfalls in the industry (such as signing something they shouldn't or not signing something they should). And negotiating effectively on their behalf.
Who was your first entertainment client?
Another one of my best friends. Someone accused him of defaming them and threatened to sue him. At the time, I was working with a large law firm with a well-respected partner. I wanted to prove my intelligence, so I wrote a detailed three-page letter outlining the laws of defamation and where my client was at all times and how he could not have been responsible. The partner read it, said it was great but suggested that instead, I write only one line — “Kindly provide us with proof of your claim.” We never heard from the person again. It taught me a valuable lesson that, very often, less is more.
How did you spend that retainer?
He never paid me! But thanks for the reminder. I'm sending him a bill!
Who are some of your other clients?
I have been blessed to work with supreme Jamaican talent over the years, from great singers like TOK, Tami Chynn, Richie Spice, Jah Cure and Romain Virgo. To producers like Code Red, Shane Brown, Donovan Germain and Skatta. To athletes like Ricardo “Bibi” Gardner; and respected dancehall artistes such as Ce'cile, Leftside, Mr Lexx and Busy Signal. I now work with dancehall artiste Popcaan, who is at the top of his game. I recently structured and negotiated his signing to Drake's OVO label. I also work with a great unique new talent, Tessellated. We recently tied up a deal with Apple Airpods for his amazing song I Learnt Some Jazz Today.
Who has been the most significant influence on your life, and why?
In the heavens, that supreme being or spiritual force that has guided my steps and is good to me even when I'm not good to myself. On earth, my daughter Leah Nicole. She is my world and has renewed my energy to do all I humanly can to protect and give her a good life and develop her intelligence, happiness, strength of character and spirituality.
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