media law

This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.

Since you are interested in IP law or maybe media and entertainment law, you must be wanting to know who are the best law firms in this space. Should you go for the biggest law firms, known as the top tier? Or are the niche firms doing the very best work in this space?

Where is your career likely to grow faster as a media and entertainment lawyer? Or even as an IP lawyer specialising in the media and entertainment industry?

You probably want to work with, hire as an in-house counsel or collaborate with the top firms at some point if you are going work either as an IP lawyer or a media and entertainment lawyer.

I have a list for you. So do you think you will like to work with them? Or perhaps you will be hiring them one day as an in-house lawyer working for a major production house?

Let’s jump in.

  • Naik Naik & Co.

Established in 2004, the firm boasts of a large clientele with big names from the industry such as Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, Ms. Deepika Padukone, Ms. Sonam Kapoor amongst many others. It also represents productions houses such as T-Series, Viacom 18, Endemol and Tips Industries.

With major wins such as securing the stay on the ban notified by four states of India on the screening of Padmavat earlier in the year to the recent win in the Supreme Court for Madhur Bhandarkar and Bharat Shah on the release of their movie Indu Sarkar. Not only does the firm have major wins to their name, but also a number of crucial judgments in the media space are to their credit. Be it the judgment passed by the Supreme Court in the Aarakshan Case in 2011 which is now considered a landmark, to securing John Doe orders from the high courts in India to fight the menace of piracy, the firm has a lot of golden hats in its kitty!

They don’t just understand the law, but also understand the business, which helps them deliver better results than their contemporaries in the market.

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Ms. Madhu Goradia and Mr. Ravi Suryavanshi are the partners who deal with the Telecom Media and Technology (TMT) practice of this firm. Ms. Goradia alone has represented clients in over 500 cases!

With three office in Bombay and numerous accolades, I believe it is safe to say that Naik dominates the legal business in the media industry. In case you’d like to know more about the firm and their practice, you can visit their website here.

  • DSK Legal

The firm has a multi-disciplinary team with over a 100 lawyers spread across their offices in Mumbai, Pune and Delhi. It is one of the fastest growing law firms and we will not be surprised if it comes to be regarded as one of the top tier firms soon, a distinction last won by Trilegal at least a decade back.

If we are to look specifically at the team members that work in the IP Law and TMT sector, three names would have to be mentioned: Mr. Anand Desai (Managing Partner), Ms. Chandrima Mitra (Partner) and Mr. Tushar Ajinkya (Partner).

DSK Legal has been handling both disputes as well as transactions for its media clientele. This is the law firm that represented Salman Khan in the 2002 hit and run case and responsible for the speedy bail they received in the matter within 5 hours of the sentence being pronounced.

On the transaction side, Aamir Khan is an old client of Mr. Desai. The firm was responsible for structuring a finance-cum-distribution deal with PVR for Aamir Khan. Mr. Desai was also responsible for structuring the co-production between Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Sony Pictures for the movie Saawariya. Back then, it was one of the very first times that a major foreign company was co-producing a movie in India and it was absolutely important that the rights to exploitation of the film were negotiated well.

Being a full-service law firm, DSK also advices some of its media clients on tax issues. A number of producers in India look at the option of vesting their rights in the film in Mauritius to save up on tax, especially with the increasing revenue being generated from abroad.

DSK also has the advantage of having a full fledged corporate transactions and investment advisory practice that is also used by media and entertainment majors from time to time.

  • Saikrishna and Associates

A pioneer in intellectual property laws, Saikrishna and Associates is a full-service law firm with over a 100 lawyers and 19 Partners and Associate Partners. The key names to note here are Mr. Saikrishna Rajagopal (Managing Partner), Mr. Ameet Datta (Partner, IP and TMT), and Ms. Monica Datta (Partner). It is not only about the business, Saikrishna is considered one of the best places to work for and is known for its humane culture which is very rare in law firms.

Established in 2001, the firm not only has a huge clientele that includes industry giants such as Star India and Amazon, but also has landmark judgments to its credit. The Doordarshan sports broadcast decision of the Delhi High Court wherein the High Court ruled that Prasar Bharti could only air the footage that other sports broadcasters share with it as mandated by law on terrestrial TV and not on Cable TV is one of the many.

More recently, Saikrishna was also responsible for securing an order from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) approving the release of Avengers: The Age of Ultron after the commission found no anti-competitive behaviour by the Hollywood producers. The firm was acting on behalf of their client Walt Disney.

  • Nishith Desai & Associates (NDA)

NDA has been in the news for providing all-around services in the media and entertainment sector to a number of big names in the industry such as the Times Group, Wipro, Reliance Entertainment, Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc., Sahara, MTV, etc. Gowree Gokhale is the Partner concerned for Intellectual Property and TMT.

NDA is the other contender for a spot as a Tier 1 law firm in years to come. They are not only huge, but has a sterling reputation. Only if there was any independent way to determine size and reputation of law firms, NDA may have beaten some of the big law firms objectively.

The firm specialises in advising the entertainment industry on 14 different aspects: Strategy, Structuring, Regulatory, Documentation and Advisory, IP Advisory, Due Diligence, Production Counsel, Talent Arrangements, Sports, Online Gaming and Casino Laws, Print Media, Joint Ventures and M&A, Capital Markets and Funds & Investments, and Litigation.

To mention a few of their important achievements, they have assisted clients in their proposed bids for the Indian Premiere League for the broadcasting rights and their proposed bids for acquiring Indian Premiere Leagues’ franchise teams. In addition, NDA acted as production counsel to the critically acclaimed Indian film “Black”. As production counsels for “Black”, they advised the client on a host of intellectual property issues arising out of the production of the film.

  • Krishnamurthy and Co. (KLaw)

Nikhil Krishnamurthy is the key person responsible for setting up the Entertainment and Media law practice at KLaw. A former partner at Anand and Anand, Nikhil moved to KLaw as Senior Partner in 2006.

Mr. Krishnamurthy works out of the Bangalore office and has experience of over 18 years. The firm specialises in cases on intellectual property law (IP Litigation), entertainment law, music law, content acquisition, licensing and information technology.

In an interview with indianlawyer250.com, he spoke about his role in India’s first case concerning compulsory licensing of music for radio broadcasting. He represented the FM Radio broadcaster (Music Broadcast) and filed the first application before the Copyright Board under the provisions for compulsory licensing for the purpose of radio broadcast in 2001. The provision had never been exercised in the 43 years that the Copyright Act 1957 had been in force. This very case spun a series of litigations that eventually led to amendment of the Copyright Act in 2012.

Are these the only law firms that specialise in Media and Entertainment Laws?

No. This is not an exhaustive list. There are a number of other law firms that have a legal team dedicated to the TMT sector such as Khaitan & Co. and Anand & Anand & Khimani. In addition, TMT Law, a boutique law firm dealing with specifically the TMT sector headed by NLS alumnus Abhishek Malhotra, recently merged with Bharucha & Partners and has a flourishing media litigation practice!

The question for many law students and aspiring media lawyers still remain the same: how do we make it to these law firms? What will it take to land a job here?

The first step is to know the basics of media and entertainment laws and as we can clearly see, with the sort of work these law firms do, a clear understanding of the media industry and the legal/business issues it faces is critical.

You are soon going to get a mail from us with a list of 35 skills that IP lawyers should learn to make a place for themselves at top IP or Media and Entertainment law firms. You will also get a mail about the top IP law firms that you may want to work with, created based on a survey of IP lawyers below 30.

I know, I know, you don’t have to thank me. We keep doing this kind of research for the benefit of our students, all the time, and you can expect a lot more valuable mails from us (some occasional advertisements of our courses too).

Unfortunately, most law schools in India do not teach media and entertainment laws as a course subject at all, and some of them now teach Intellectual Property Rights, although not at all adequately.

There are two ways to go about this, either you land a job (somehow) and learn on the job; or you make a conscious decision of learning the law through the available resources at hand.

You could keep a tab on the media and entertainment law columns on Legally India, Bar and Bench and Live Law.

You could regularly keep reading blog posts and articles on the industry and watch the news!

In addition, you can take up a media law course online that offers you industry insights and networking opportunities with lawyers working exclusively in this industry. And if you’re looking for easy information on the kind of work media lawyers do, there is always SuperLawyer for practical insights!

In my limited experience, the industry is tight-knitted and making it here is difficult to be absolutely honest. The sector is niche, the number of people rooting for a job at these law firms are in hundreds if not thousands, and the positions available are limited. You’ve got to be mentally prepared for a fight, however, with the right set of skills and domain-knowledge, you may be able to set yourself apart!

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