This article has been written by Neha Varhadi, pursuing a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws from LawSikho.
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Entertainment law is also commonly known as Media Law. It deals with the legal services provided within the entertainment and media industry. Some law fields are extremely specific. Like a litigation lawyer typically argues cases in court and negotiates settlements for their clients, while a tax lawyer helps their clients resolve matters regarding taxation. On the other hand, an entertainment lawyer often enjoys varied and diverse responsibilities. The word ‘Entertainment Law’ constitutes a broader term which incorporates different study and applicability of laws, for instance, litigation, taxation, transactional law, contract law, compliance law, criminal law, etc. One can assume that entertainment law may be a combination of multifarious laws. The role of an entertainment lawyer being diverse, an entertainment lawyer is qualified enough to guard their clients’ intellectual property rights, represent them in court over disputes, negotiate contracts, act as an agent to maximize their earnings, and help them manage their taxes, among other responsibilities. An entertainment lawyer is often an important professional resource for a producer, director, or another creative working in film or television. Read ahead to catch a gist of the role of an entertainment lawyer within the entertainment industry.
What is Entertainment law?
Entertainment practically, represents motion pictures, television shows, cinema, plays, etc. It represents glamour, creativity, diligence, and imagination.
While the legal side of entertainment might not have the glitz and glamour of the actual production itself, nevertheless, entertainment law remains a really important aspect of the entertainment world. Entertainment law completely deals with the legal matters of the entertainment and media industries. From fighting for the freedom of expression and speech to drafting agreements to negotiating for talents, everything falls under the radar of entertainment law. Important skills like contract drafting, negotiation, communication skills, analytical approach, critical thinking, etc. play a really important role within the field of entertainment law. Nevertheless, if you enjoy the bright lights, the celebrity, and therefore the creative process that goes into entertainment, here’s the way to become an entertainment lawyer.
How to become an entertainment lawyer?
If you’re considering a career path in entertainment law, many universities in India offer an LL.M and an online degree or diploma program. However, you initially require a law degree to be eligible for consideration. A course in entertainment and media law or an LL.M. Online degree or diploma program offers valuable networking opportunities and industry-specific education for lawyers interested to pursue this field of law.
What does an entertainment lawyer do?
Entertainment law isn’t considered as a specific separate legal discipline. Instead, it is a merger of traditional legal disciplines like contract law, intellectual property law, and business law. If you choose to become an entertainment lawyer, you may have several responsibilities as follows:
- Drafting contracts: The drafting of varied contracts and agreements is the primary role of an entertainment lawyer. The different kinds of contracts include production contracts, artist/actor agreements, director agreements, satellite agreements, etc. The role also includes being knowledgeable about the law and ensuring that the terms contained within each contract are appropriate and align with their client’s best interests. In addition, an entertainment lawyer helps their client to understand the terms and conditions with which they are contractually bound to comply.
- Facilitating negotiations: Aside from drafting, an entertainment lawyer is additionally required to possess negotiation skills to enable them to get the best bargain for their client. Most often, talent agents and entertainment lawyers work together on behalf of their clients. Talent agents and entertainment lawyers together counsel their clients on terms of the contracts and aid in negotiating fee arrangements.
- Connecting clients with other service providers: Drafting and negotiating contracts isn’t the sole responsibility of an entertainment lawyer. It is a general practice for an in-house entertainment lawyer to collaborate with an agent and perform tasks and duties similar to those of an agent, manager, or publicist.
- Adviser: One of the foremost important roles of an entertainment attorney is providing legal guidance and advice to their clients. Entertainment lawyers are proficient in traditional law as well as contractual laws and understand the nitty-gritty of the profession and interpretation of varied laws that interact with one another.
- Protecting intellectual property: One of the major roles of entertainment lawyers is to protect the intellectual rights of their clients. This requires them to be proficient in-laws concerning copyright, trademark, and other likes. They may require filing suit, injunctions, defect suits filed against their client, etc.
- Provide representation: An entertainment lawyer can represent their client and handle all communications procedures on their behalf. If a client has any legal matter or lawsuit filed against them, and entertainment attorney can negotiate on their behalf to secure an out-of-court settlement or vigorously represent their clients in court before a judge.
- Developing financing agreements for various loans, sponsorships, grants, and other forms of funding. As you’ll see from the above, the role of an entertainment lawyer is often quite extensive, making them a vital go-to individual to have on your side if you operate a business within the entertainment industry. Apart from the duties and responsibilities, here are some of the areas lawyers may handle for each industry:
- Film: As we all know making a film is such a colossal task to handle. Similar to that even more gigantic task is that of the varied legal contracts and agreements that need to be entered into whilst making a film. Some of the major contracts are contracts with stars and other talent, labor negotiations with various union crews and employees, co-production agreements, financial backing arrangements, distribution agreements, equipment and space rental, production liability issues, merchandising and product placement, and copyright and trademark issues.
- Theatre: Just like the films, there are contracts in theatre such as contracts with talent and crew, rental and co-production agreements, producer agreements, product liability issues, ticket sale agreements, and copyright and trademark issues.
- Music: Entertainment lawyers in the music industry mainly handle contracts with record labels, artists, managers, agents, music licensing, royalty agreements, and handle copyright issues.
- Digital: Due to the advent of OTT platforms, the role of an entertainment lawyer has evolved over the years. They now also handle documentation relating to OTT platforms, licensing agreements, assignment agreements, and copyright issues related thereto.
- Publishing: Production contracts, author agreements, advertising and marketing agreements, and copyright and trademark issues. Broadly speaking, the work done by an entertainment lawyer can be split into two major categories. Attorneys divide the practice of entertainment law into two basic categories: transaction-based and litigation-based. Transaction-based focuses on drafting and negotiating entertainment contracts, while litigation-based means resolving disputes by filing a lawsuit or through mediation or arbitration. More specifically, an entertainment lawyer can target any or several of many practice areas, like intellectual property, corporate law, labor law, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution, litigation, property, real estate, criminal law, international law, matrimonial law, taxation, and immigration.
Who do entertainment lawyers represent?
An entertainment lawyer can work as in-house counsel for huge media houses such as Yash Raj Films, Viacom, Red Chillies, etc. Some of the work that an entertainment law will focus upon are drafting and negotiating all agreements and contracts that revolve around audiovisual content like endorsement deals, actor agreements, director agreements, Intellectual Property protection, celebrity contracts, etc.
Usually, the big media houses that run huge companies in the industry have their own legal departments that work alongside business teams to draft and negotiate contracts, facilitate funding process, manage and acquire talent, litigate and protect their Intellectual Property Rights. These houses coordinate with external law firms so as to understand the legal requirements from a business perspective. Thus, in-house lawyers who work for a media or entertainment company have to understand the company to a certain required depth and level, so as to effectively advise them and protect their best interests. These in-house counsels acquire expertise in different parts of the entertainment industry by bridging assignments with legal departments and this paves the way to becoming the general counsel.
Alternatively, an entertainment lawyer may be part of a law firm that specialized in media and entertainment works. In this way, they get to represent and advise the media house as an external counsel. The advantage of being an entertainment and media lawyer in a law firm is that one gets to work with different clientele at the same time and represent different media houses and other entertainment industry’s best talents all at the same time.
As the field of entertainment is constantly evolving so is the law relating thereto. With the current escalation in technology the interest in searching and acquiring new, unique, and different mediums of entertainment like web series, OTT platforms, etc. is on the rise. And with that, the role and responsibilities of an entertainment lawyer shall keep on evolving and change extensively from time to time. But all in all the roles and responsibility of an entertainment attorney is unique and of utmost importance today.
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