Malaysia is a prime destination for events in Southeast Asia and offers unique opportunities for event organisers. However, the success of events ranging from international conferences to local cultural festivals depends on a thorough understanding of the country’s legal landscape. This includes obtaining necessary permits and licences, ensuring attendee safety, protecting intellectual property, and managing contractual relationships.

This article is a comprehensive guide to the legal considerations essential for organising an event in Malaysia. It aims to equip organisers with the knowledge required to navigate the complexities of legal and commercial planning, ensuring compliance with local regulations and a successful event outcome. By focusing on these critical aspects, organisers can not only mitigate potential legal risks but also enhance the overall event experience for all stakeholders involved.

Permits and Licences

Securing the appropriate permits and licences from the relevant authorities is a critical step in organising an event in Malaysia. The specific permits or licences required vary based on the event’s unique characteristics, including its nature and scale. Given Malaysia’s diverse event landscape, which encompasses cultural festivals, corporate conferences, sporting events, and entertainment spectacles, organisers must be well-informed about the common permits and licences that might be necessary. This knowledge ensures compliance with local regulations and contributes to the smooth execution of the event.

1. Temporary Entertainment License: For temporary events such as concerts, funfairs, warehouse sales, or any other provision of entertainment for a limited period of time, a temporary entertainment licence will have to be applied for and obtained from the local municipal council. When considering the application for licences, the local municipal council will consider whether certain safety and security standards have been met.

It was reported by the News Straits Times in its article “Police: Puncak Alam funfair operating without licence” that a funfair in Eco Grandeur in Puncak Alam commenced operations even though the local council had rejected its licence application on the grounds of failing to meet safety standards. An accident occurred two days after its illegal opening when two women and a child were thrown off a ride and suffered injuries. According to the report, the funfair operators were investigated under Section 6 of the Selangor State Entertainment & Places of Entertainment Enactment 1995 for operating without a licence. The offence carries a maximum fine of RM25,000 or imprisonment of up to five years if convicted.

2. Direct Selling Licence: A company requires a direct selling licence to sell their products or services directly to consumers without involving intermediaries such as wholesalers or retailers. This licence is issued by the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Cost of Living (KPDN). A direct selling licence is required by direct sales companies wherein a sales representative conducts a demonstration or presentation of products to the attendees during an event.

3. Music Licence: The event organiser must obtain a music licence if copyrighted music is to be played in a public or commercial setting. The organiser must identify the correct licensing body to obtain the licence from based on the music usage, as there are three main music licensing bodies in Malaysia:

a. Music Authors’ Copyright Protection Berhad (MACP) administers the public performance and broadcast rights of songwriters, composers and music publishers.

b. Public Performance Malaysia Berhad (PPM) represents local and international recording companies in issuing licences and collecting royalties from commercial users of sound, music videos and karaoke recordings.

c. Recording Performers Malaysia Berhad represents recording performers in licensing matters and distribution of royalties granted to performers with respect to the public performance and broadcast of their performances embodied in sound recordings.

4. Liquor licence: The sale of alcoholic beverages during an event will require a liquor licence issued by the local municipality. Organisers should check with the premises owner whether they already have a licence for their premises. Organisers will also have to ensure that restrictions related to the sale of alcohol are observed during the event, such as the minimum age of purchasing and prohibition of selling alcohol to Muslims.

5. Concerts and live shows by foreign artists: For concerts or live shows by foreign artists, an application must be made to the special committee called the Central Agency for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes (PUSPAL) established by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia of Malaysia. All applications must comply with the PUSPAL Guidelines, which set out the code of conduct and specified ‘blackout’ dates when concerts and live performances are not permitted to be held. A foreign artist who is approved by PUSPAL and subsequently fails to adhere to the guidelines imposed will be blacklisted and prohibited from performing again in Malaysia.

During a performance in July 2023 at the Good Vibes Festival in Malaysia, Matty Healy of the music band, The 1975, kissed his bandmate and criticized Malaysian laws against homosexuality. This act led to the band being blacklisted and banned from future performances in Malaysia. PUSPAL described the act as disrespectful to local laws and cultural values. The incident caused the cancellation of the festival and elicited strong responses from government officials, who summoned festival organizers for explanations. The backlash extended beyond Malaysia, prompting The 1975 to cancel scheduled shows in Indonesia and Taiwan. The controversy also highlighted the sensitivity around LGBTQ+ issues in the region, impacting the band’s tour plans and stirring debates on cultural and legal norms concerning sexuality​.

Click on the links to read news reports by The Star (The 1975 blacklisted, banned from performing in Malaysia, says Puspal and Fahmi raps The 1975 over kissing incident at Good Vibes Festival, organisers to explain), Al Jazeera (Pop band The 1975’s set stopped in Malaysia after onstage kiss and The 1975 cancels Indonesia, Taiwan gigs after Malaysia LGBTQ row), and CNA (Malaysia halts Good Vibes music festival after same-sex kiss by UK band The 1975)

Legal Compliance

Organising an event in Malaysia requires adherence to various legal regulations beyond just obtaining permits and licences. This includes ensuring attendee safety and security, maintaining insurance, abiding by data protection and food safety laws, and managing environmental impacts. Effective planning and execution across these areas are essential for legal compliance and the overall success of the event. Below, we outline the key legal considerations every organiser must navigate:

1. Safety and Security: A crucial part of the planning process involves ensuring the safety and security of the attendees. An organiser must implement comprehensive yet flexible security measures based on the unique characteristics of the event. This involves conducting risk assessments to identify potential hazards before the event, which will depend on different factors such as the venue, number of attendees and type of event. A clear emergency evacuation plan has to be established with exit routes and assembly points, and the procedure must be communicated to the attendees.

The 2014 Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) incident, where six attendees tragically died from heatstroke, underscores the legal responsibility event organisers hold regarding the safety and security of their attendees. Investigations later revealed that these fatalities were not due to drug overdoses as initially reported by the police, but rather resulted from severe heat conditions and insufficient hydration provided at the event. The harsh weather was a combination of choking haze, high humidity and a temperature of 35°C. This mischaracterisation not only led to a misinformed public but also impacted the festival’s reputation significantly. This disaster was likely the result of inadequate safety measures and highlights a lapse in the duty of care that event organisers owe to their attendees to keep them safe. It serves as a stark reminder of the importance of providing sufficient medical facilities, hydration points, and appropriate guidance on managing extreme weather conditions at such large-scale events.

See news reports by the Malay Mail (FMFA deaths caused by heatstroke, not drugs, says pathologist) and The Straits Times (Six deaths at Malaysia’s Future Music Festival Asia caused by heatstroke, not drug overdose).

2. Insurance: Public liability insurance is an essential component of the risk management strategy for any event, providing financial protection against potential liabilities and unexpected incidents. In Malaysia, securing public liability insurance is required for organisers of sporting events. This requirement ensures that in the event of an accident or injury, compensation claims made by attendees are covered, regardless of the organiser’s financial condition.

While public liability insurance does not prevent incidents, it is critical as it covers potential legal fees and compensation claims from attendees who may suffer injuries or whose property may be damaged due to event activities. For event organisers, obtaining adequate public liability insurance is crucial to managing potential financial losses from such claims, thus safeguarding the organiser’s financial stability.

3. Ticketing and Privacy Laws: When selling tickets and collecting attendees’ personal information, the organisers must comply with data protection laws. This includes obtaining consent from the attendees and informing them on how their data will be used and stored. The terms and conditions relating to the purchase of the tickets must be disclosed, including refund policies, event risks, disclaimers and other restrictions. Organisers must also ensure that any third-party ticketing platforms used are secure and comply with data protection and privacy laws.

In the data breach incident at Brock University in Canada, the third-party vendor AudienceView Campus, handling online event ticket sales for a hockey playoff game, experienced a security compromise that exposed customers’ credit card information. The breach led Brock University to suspend the ticketing platform and notify affected individuals. This incident underscores the responsibility event organisers have in ensuring the privacy and security of attendee data, particularly when outsourcing to third-party services. Organisers must themselves have or choose vendors with robust security measures and ensure compliance with data protection laws. In the event of a data breach, rapid response strategies to maintain trust and minimise liability are critical.

See the disclosures by The Brock News (Brock alerted to third-party data breach involving event ticket sales) and Brock Badgers (Brock suspends access to event ticketing platform).

4. Food and Beverages: The sale of food and beverages within the event must comply with food safety regulations, such as adherence to proper hygiene practices, food storage and sanitation procedures. Food vendors should provide clear labelling and information regarding the ingredients in the food sold so that customers with allergies or religious restrictions can make informed decisions. Please read our article “Food Safety in Malaysia: Criminal Liability for Selling Poisonous Pufferfish and Other Harmful Foods” for more information on the regulations governing food sales in Malaysia.

5. Environmental Regulations: The event must have proper waste management systems, which include providing adequate waste bins for the attendees and arranging for the proper disposal of food-related waste for food vendors. This is important for maintaining cleanliness and complying with environmental regulations. The organiser should also be mindful of noise pollution and ensure that the event’s activities, such as music or announcements, comply with local noise level restrictions that the municipality council or the venue owners have set.

Contracts and Agreements

Organising an event involves coordination among various stakeholders, each contributing to different facets of the event’s execution. Event organisers should formalise relationships with all parties through definitive agreements, which establish clear expectations and delineate responsibilities. These agreements not only help in managing liabilities and risks but also ensure that every aspect of the event is conducted as planned. Below are some essential contracts that event organisers might consider to secure confidentiality, define service parameters, manage sponsorships, address risks, and ensure data privacy:

1. Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA): An NDA allows the parties to establish a confidential relationship and outline the information that is classified as confidential. For example, if the event involves intellectual property such as unique event concepts, innovative elements, marketing strategies or technological innovations, an NDA will help prevent unauthorised use and maintain the originality. An NDA can also be crucial during the planning phase to ensure that sensitive information such as financial information, budget details, attendee lists, or other confidential data would only be disclosed to third parties with prior authorisation, if at all. You can learn more about the importance of an NDA from our article “Non-Disclosure Agreements: Why are they important?

2. Contract for Service: Service contracts are crucial when coordinating with various service providers during event planning, such as influencers, caterers, entertainers and security services. This agreement clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of each provider, detailing essential aspects such as the scope and duration of services, payment conditions, liability and indemnity provisions, terms for contract termination, and dispute resolution mechanisms. Ensuring clarity on these key elements helps in managing expectations, facilitating smooth event execution, and minimising potential conflicts or misunderstandings.

3. Sponsorship Agreement: It is common for sponsors to provide financial support for specific events in return for visibility and exposure for their brand or products. This is where a sponsorship agreement will specify, among other things, the amount of the financial contribution, payment terms, promotional opportunities provided to the sponsor and media coverage of the event.

4. Waiver Form: An effective waiver serves as a crucial document in events where there are inherent risks, by securing participants’ acknowledgement of these risks and their consent to not hold the organiser liable for any resultant injuries or accidents. This form is especially relevant for sporting events such as marathons, cycling races, or triathlons, where the likelihood of injury is higher. By signing the waiver, participants explicitly agree to release the event organisers from liability, ensuring both parties are aware of and agree to the risk involved.

5. Privacy Policy: For events that require collecting and storing personal data from the participants, it is vital to have a privacy policy to obtain the consent of the participants and to inform them on how their data is being handled, stored, protected and the sharing of their data to third parties in certain circumstances. This policy must be easily accessible to attendees, especially when purchasing tickets.

The agreements listed above are among the common agreements that are entered into by relevant parties to promote transparency, mitigate risks, protect the interests of the parties involved and ensure the successful execution of the event. It is advisable to involve lawyers in the drafting and reviewing of these contracts to ensure legal compliance and clarity.

Dangers of Not Having a Written Agreement

The failure to enter into a written agreement may affect the preparation or execution of the event. It may further lead to disputes before or after the event. Not setting out agreed terms in an agreement may cause the following issues to arise:

1. Unclear Expectations: Without a formal agreement, the expectations may be vague and lead to uncertainty on the roles and responsibilities of each party involved. Important terms such as scope of work, milestones, or payment terms must be set out to prevent any misunderstandings, miscommunication, or disagreements.

2. Difficulty in Cancellation: A termination clause included in an agreement will cater for the unfortunate event of cancellation. It may provide for the events that may trigger termination and the recourse for the innocent party. In the absence of this clause, terminating the services may be more complicated and may result in financial loss.

In the case of Live Scape Sdn Bhd v World Wonder Fest Sdn Bhd [2023] MLJU 96, the High Court awarded Live Scape with damages for the breach of contract committed by World Wonder Fest relating to a K-pop concert that was supposed to be held in Malaysia. The latter failed to comply with its obligations to pay the required sums within the agreed period as stipulated in the written agreement. In response, Live Scape terminated the contract. The court found that the notice of termination complied with the termination clause contained in the agreement and was valid. The dispute was also reported by the News Straits Times in its article “#Showbiz: Event organiser Livescape wins lawsuit against K-Pop producers”.

3. Inadequate Risk Management: Effective risk management is crucial for event organizers to address uncertainties that may arise during the planning and execution of an event. It is essential to have written agreements with all vendors involved to clearly define the allocation of risks for unforeseen circumstances. Such contracts help ensure that both parties understand their responsibilities and are prepared to handle unexpected challenges efficiently.

4. Lack of Legal Protection: Lack of legal protection can make it difficult for parties to enforce their rights, complicating efforts to seek legal remedies in disputes. For instance, the absence of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) makes it challenging to legally address issues such as unauthorized use of intellectual property, including original concepts or logos. Contracts can include clauses for liquidated damages, which pre-determine the compensation amount for specific breaches, providing a clear, enforceable remedy. Specifying dispute resolution mechanisms, such as arbitration or mediation, in the agreement helps streamline the process of resolving disputes outside of court, offering a faster, often less adversarial path to settlement. These provisions ensure that all parties have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and the consequences of their actions, thus safeguarding their rights and facilitating more effective legal protection.

Conclusion

Organising an event requires meticulous planning and a thorough understanding of the legal framework governing such activities. From obtaining permits and licences to ensuring the safety and security of the attendees to entering into a formal agreement for legal protection, it is essential that organisers are aware of all legal and commercial considerations involved. Given the various aspects that are required to be taken into account when organising an event in Malaysia, it is advisable for organisers to refer to legal professionals for assistance in managing their risks and liabilities. Our legal team will be more than happy to assist and guide you through the process.

By Mira Mashor

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Note: This article does not constitute legal advice to any specific case. The facts and circumstances of each and every case will differ and therefore will require specific legal advice. Feel free to contact us for complimentary legal consultation.