Entertainment law is a broad term used to cover the areas of law necessary to provide legal service to persons in the entertainment industry such as artists, producers, musicians, writers, publishers, managers, filmmakers, photographers, and game companies.
While entertainment law primarily involves intellectual property issues such as trademarks, copyrights, and the rights of publicity and privacy, the practice of entertainment law also frequently touches on issues in employment/labor law, corporate law, torts, securities law, insurance law, First Amendment law, and international law.
Why should you hire an entertainment lawyer?
Entertainment lawyers handle the unique legal needs of individuals and businesses involved in the entertainment industry. If you have a contract you need reviewed or drafted involving art, motion pictures, music, theater, book publishing, photography, and/or video games, it’s wise to work with an entertainment lawyer to ensure the contract is clearly drafted, reflects your agreed upon deal points, and serves your best interests.
Lawyers who do not have a current understanding of these industries may well feel like you are speaking to them in a different language and/or fail to identify critical issues potentially leaving their entertainment clients with either a raw deal, or no deal at all.
What do entertainment lawyers do?
Most entertainment lawyers are transactional lawyers who spend the bulk of their time drafting, reviewing, and/or negotiating contracts for their clients to ensure the contracts reflect industry standard and/or agreed upon terms, provide appropriate compensation, and protect intellectual property. A good entertainment lawyer will also spend time explaining how the industry works to new clients so that they can avoid bad deals as well as costly disputes to try to get out of them.
Many entertainment lawyers act as general counsel for established artists and companies who have a regular need for advice on how to secure rights to third party content to avoid copyright/trademark infringement (e.g., optioning a book for a screenplay, acquiring music for film soundtrack) and how best to exploit/protect their brand (e.g, licensing their name, image, or content to distributors, merchandisers, sponsors, etc.).
Some entertainment lawyers may also “shop” clients to try to secure deals with industry players (e.g., artists to record labels, TV show concepts to networks, screenplays to studios). It is important to be cautious in entering into such representation arrangements, especially if the lawyer promises you a deal in exchange for a shopping fee. Unless the lawyer controls the label, studio, etc. (and the ethics of that are murky at best), then it’s unlikely that he/she can follow through with such promises no matter how much money you pay him/her.