Entertainment law is broad, coving a range of activities including sports, TV and movies, live theater, music, publishing, and much more, with each area typically involving multiple fields of law including contracts, entity formation, copyright, trademark, the right of publicity, and others. Additionally, many endeavors in the entertainment industry have an overlay of regulation specific to that area. For example, if you are going to produce a film or television show, knowledge of the SAG/AFTRA guild agreement is necessary. Likewise, endeavors in the music industry require an understanding of laws and regulations specific to music licensing and distribution. If you are involved in the entertainment industry, or seek to be, it is vital that you find an entertainment attorney with a solid understanding of the laws, regulations, guild agreements, and norms applicable to entertainment law in general as well as your specific area of the entertainment industry.
So how do you go about finding the best entertainment lawyer for you? What do you even look for?
What to Look for in Entertainment Lawyers
When looking for an entertainment lawyer, first, you want to make sure that your attorney is skilled in drafting contracts. We are pretty confident that whatever you may be doing in any corner of the entertainment universe, you will have to enter into written agreements with third parties to get to the end product desired and move your project forward. Commonly these contracts may include Work-for-Hire Agreements (by which you engage a third party
[or a third party engages you]
to provide services or deliverables in furtherance of the project and clarify ownership of those deliverables. Perhaps you’ll need a Joint-Authorship Agreement that will clarify the obligations and rights of co-creators of a creative work such as a comic book series, a screenplay, or just about anything created by the efforts of two or more people. Or maybe you’ll need a License Agreement by which you will grant, or receive, rights to use copyrighted materials or trademarks in your film, or the name and likeness of a celebrity in your advertising campaign for, say, an athletic competition or an awards show. Or maybe you seek to more deeply leverage the name and likeness of a celebrity, famous athlete or social influencer by entering into a sponsorship or endorsement agreement. Perhaps you’ll need the above- and below-the-line agreements necessary to engage the individuals involved in the production of a feature-length film or TV show. We could go on. Bottom line, it is crucial that you find an attorney capable of writing clear, concise, and, most importantly, enforceable contracts.
Once you find a lawyer capable of efficiently drafting clear agreements for your use, then it is necessary to drill down and determine whether the lawyer you are talking to is knowledgeable in the specifics of your corner of the entertainment industry. A lawyer for a professional athlete should know the contours of any applicable sports team or league player contract as well as the league’s group licensing provisions, if any. A lawyer in the film and television industry must have a solid understanding of the applicable guild agreements, such as the SAG/AFTRA and Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) agreements. And a lawyer involved in the music industry must understand the different royalty streams that may be applicable — mechanical, public performance, streaming, synchronization, and print music – as well as how and when those royalties are collected, reported, divvied up, and paid. Again, we could go on. So be armed with some questions specific to your industry and be ready to fire away.
Here at Crown LLP we represent individuals and entities across the entertainment industry including those involved in film, tv, music, sports, publishing, live theater, fine art, event production, and much more. We negotiate and draft clear, concise, and enforceable agreements and we understand the laws, guild provisions, and norms applicable to your corner of the entertainment industry. Fill out our
contact form and we’ll get right back to you. We are ready for your questions.