What is an Entertainment Lawyer and When Might You Need One?

Historically, behind every successful entertainer was a good entertainment lawyer. Composers, recording artists, actors, performers – just about anyone who was creative and successful – typically had an association with an experienced entertainment lawyer. The role of entertainment lawyers has changed over the years, but they still play an important role in the long-term success of entertainers.  Here are some of the roles an entertainment lawyer might play:
1) Looking out for you and your interests. Attorneys as a general rule work to protect the rights of their clients, whether those clients are individuals or companies. The attorney’s ethical duty is to advise you of your rights and your responsibilities and advocate on your behalf. This is particularly useful in cases where one party has a significant bargaining advantage over the other, such as when a recording or other media/entertainment company is negotiating with an up and coming artist. An experienced entertainment attorney can help ensure that the entertainer is not taken advantage of.
2) Drafting the documents that you will need. Because entertainment law can include a diverse range of legal practice areas (business, contracts, intellectual property, labor and employment, tax, etc.), entertainers need a growing number of legal documents to protect their interests as they advance in their careers. A qualified entertainment attorney will identify and understand these needs and can either prepare the necessary documents or find someone who can. Negotiating and drafting and reviewing and revising contracts with managers, media companies, venues, galleries, producers, etc. can by itself be a full time job for a busy entertainment attorney.
3) Protecting your works. One of the greatest assets of an entertainer is their intellectual property, which can include paintings (or other visual works), compositions, sound recordings, scripts, movies, and television shows. The rights related to these works must be protected and enforced. An entertainment attorney is crucial in this respect because they can ensure registration of copyrights and trademarks, exploit those rights through licensing agreements, enforce them through litigation against infringers, and advise as to how to assign the assets upon sale or otherwise.
4) Being your bad guy. Personal relationships are important in any business, but none more so than in the entertainment industry. Lawyers are frequently cited as the reason for why someone has to do something that may be objectionable to someone else (i.e. “My lawyer says I have to …”) Entertainment attorneys have perhaps more opportunities to play this role for their entertainment clients than in other areas of practice due to the unique nature of the issues a typical entertainment faces professionally.
If you work in the entertainment industry and are facing legal questions, we’d love to help. Please contact our law firm to set up a consultation.

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