12 Sep What Does An Entertainment Lawyer Do?
Every entertainment lawyer offers his or her own particular set of skills, but what they all have in common is specialization in contract law and copyright law.
Entertainment lawyers advise and counsel clients on the rights they have or may need to acquire in order to legally protect and distribute their copyrightable works, such as music, film, television shows, theater productions, books, video games, websites, and other creative content.
Copyright law in the United States is promulgated under Title 17 of the United States Code and has been updated periodically over the past century. “Copyright” is not just a reference to one right, but rather a set of multiple rights. Copyright laws apply differently depending on certain factors such as when and how the work was created. Copyright law also governs works that are specially commissioned or created in collaboration with others. Every song, every manuscript, and every creative work imaginable is formulated in its own unique way, so an entertainment lawyer can help identify the legal traits and requirements needed to have a successful and conflict-free career.
Entertainment lawyers also assist with contracts, which are governed under state law and form the backbone of the entertainment industry. Most entertainment industry contracts must be in writing – they cannot be verbal. Regardless, it’s always safer and smarter to have a written contract memorializing each party’s rights and obligations than to rely on an elusive handshake deal.
An experienced attorney can draft, review and negotiate contracts on behalf of his or her clients. They help ensure their clients understand the contracts and help them get the best deal possible. Entertainment lawyers are uniquely positioned to know what the industry standards are, which deal points are negotiable, and which provisions may be missing from the contract that need to be added. They can also help clients identify “red flags” and avoid bad deals.
Some entertainment lawyers identify as “transactional-only,” meaning they offer contract and consultation services but do not engage in dispute resolution or the filing of lawsuits. Other entertainment lawyers practice in litigation, meaning they can handle contracts and lawsuits, though usually at a higher rate than transactional-only firms. If you need to remedy a dispute or file a lawsuit, check to make sure the firm you contact handles those types of cases.
Legal counsel is an investment every artist and business owner has to make at some point in his or her career, and it’s never too early to start. What you don’t know can hurt you, and failing to obtain legal advice means you’re putting your career at unnecessary and possibly fatal risk. It’s much easier and cheaper to invest in legal counsel before you hit “record” and before problems arise, than to wait until after the work has been created and after a dispute inevitably occurs.
Beth B. Moore, Esq. is an entertainment lawyer at The Beth B. Moore Law Firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. Beth specializes in copyrights, trademarks, contracts, and general business consultation for clients who work in music, film, television, theater, gaming, literature, web development and other creative arts industries. You can reach Attorney Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.