Music is everywhere. It is on the radio, on television and in the movies, in elevators, in shopping malls, at concerts, online, and so on. While the world would not be the same without the artistic talents of musicians, they would hardly be where they are today without people dedicated to entertainment law. There are several routes an entertainment lawyer can take, from publishing, television, film and Music, to advertising and much more. For a working musician, the business end can be a confusing world of legal contracts, royalties, licenses and intellectual property conflicts. Having a skilled, savvy entertainment lawyer on one’s side is a fantastic way to ensure interests and rights are and remain safeguarded.
Crucial members of the entertainment industry, entertainment lawyers focus on all media. While a great deal of what they do includes drafting and negotiating licensing, recording, publishing and other types of contracts, they are sometimes involved in arbitration and litigation issues. Some lawyers have experience in related fields such as bankruptcy, intellectual property, finance or even constitutional law with regard to First Amendment protection of free speech, which can be extremely helpful.
Anybody who creates intellectual property – essentially intangible products such as a song, book, essay, design concept, etc. – will benefit from hiring an entertainment lawyer. Before the Internet, copyright, trademark and intellectual property law was a lot less complicated. With the advent of the Internet and its substantial reach, skilled entertainment attorneys are in great demand.
How a musician gets paid for their work has become very intricate. To illustrate one example, picture a song written by an artist/performer. Now, after recording that song, two copyrights are created. The first is for the song itself, while the second is for the recording of the song. For musicians working with a record label, that label typically owns the sound recording copyright, while the musician owns the right to the song. Without an attorney, it’s quite easy for a musician (who may not be knowledgeable about the legal end of the business) to be exploited by a record company. An attorney helps sort out the details, ensuring the artist earns a fair share of revenue from sales of that record, live performances, sheet Music sales and the third-party licensing of a song to be used in a TV show, commercial or movie, etc.
And that’s just one facet of their job. Attorneys help musicians negotiate record contracts, distribution deals and all types of licenses. When there is a breach of contract or an unauthorized use of a musician’s intellectual property, litigation (or at least the threat of it) may be in order.
Depending on the musician and the value of their product, millions of dollars can be earned. Album sales, downloads, merchandising, performances, song licensing – all of these are prospective moneymakers. Bad contracts can lead to a significant loss of revenue for musicians, so it’s in their interest to be represented by a professional, knowledgeable attorney.
As with any attorney, reputation and experience are vital traits. Musicians should look for an attorney who not only specializes in entertainment law, but who has direct experience drafting and negotiating recording and performance contracts, and ensuring music licensing deals are the most beneficial for the client, and who knows how to wield the power of the law in case of copyright infringement.
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