Entertainment Law Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is entertainment law?
Entertainment is a combined sub-set of legal concepts drawn from contract, intellectual property, corporate and business organizations laws, which a lawyer applies to transactions geared towards advising and assisting clients in the motion picture, television, home entertainment, record, music publishing, live appearance, personal management, talent agency, emerging media technology, merchandising, endorsement and commercial tie-in businesses.
Q: What does an entertainment lawyer do?
An entertainment lawyer provides advice to clients concerning entertainment related transactions. The entertainment lawyer will typically prepare written agreements and/or other documents designed to protect rights (including contractual entitlements) and occasionally instituting proceedings such as lawsuits, arbitrations and mediations which may be required to enforce such rights. The entertainment lawyer’s job often includes negotiating deals for a client and such negotiations often involve other “team” members including personal managers, licensed talent agents, business managers (who are often CPAs), publicists and other artist advisers.
Q: What are the legal interests that an entertainment lawyer needs to protect?
More often than not such interests are contractual in nature but often include legal rights that arise under copyright, trademark, laws of unfair competition and other laws designed to protect so-called “intellectual property” rights.
Q: As a music performer, what rights do I need to protect?
Musical performers’ rights generally concern their audio and/or video recorded performances, musical compositions in which an artist may have interests as a composer/lyricist and/or a publisher as well as related merchandising rights.
Q: As an actor, how do I protect my rights?
An actor’s rights may in part be protected by virtue of his or her membership in SAG/AFTRA but an actor’s sources of rights and revenues are infinitely varied and so many interests are expressed and protected by the agreements they sign. Such agreements can be highly complex and the manner in which rights are expressed or limited and terms are defined is the key to maximizing both protection and results.
Q: As a producer, what agreements will I need to get my film into production?
Production of any entertainment property (not only films) encompasses a wide variety of agreements beginning with those under which a producer acquires rights, followed by those under which financing is secured, talent is attached and the physical production of a film (or a production designed for another visual medium or media) is executed.
Q: What are the typical issues to be negotiated in a film distribution agreement?
Among the most common issues are control of distribution (often delineated by medium of use, territory, term and rights which are excluded or included) as the manner in which revenues are shared, accounted for and paid.
Q: What are the best places to look for film financing?
Sources of financing vary widely from project to project and again have much to do with the extent of the rights conveyed and the matter of when, where and how rights can be exploited. The broader the rights conveyed the greater the likelihood of a substantial investment being obtained. Financing can include both equity and debt components. Domestic and international rights are often segmented. Deals are done with both domestic and foreign studios, networks, pay-tv-services, home video. Soft money components (including things like tax credits and cash subsidies/grants) are available in many countries and some states of the United States. Film financing can involve the “pre-sale” of certain rights by a media specific or territory-specific basis. This is a particularly complex area of the law and requires industry-specific knowledge and experience.