What is Entertainment Law?

Sep 23, 2016
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Written by Sydney Rae

We see celebrities on our television screen, printed in magazines, and listen to them on the radio every morning. The constant spotlight surrounding people in the entertainment industry encourages a wide range of legal issues, from the infringement of intellectual property rights to a breach of a performance contract.

If you are a talent manager, entertainer or involved in the media industry, you should get in touch with an entertainment lawyer.

What is Entertainment Law?

Entertainment law covers a variety of legal areas and the relationships between members of the entertainment industry, from Taylor Swift to Kanye West. Entertainment lawyers provide professional advice and legal services to artists, employees, businesses and other individuals within media industries such as film, radio, music, television, theatre and publishing.

An entertainment lawyer may be hired to negotiate a deal in a way that is most beneficial to their client or defend their client when a deal goes wrong.

An entertainment lawyer can deal in matters with the following:

Performance contract

As a business, having a performance contract in place ensures that performances are aware of their obligations and your expectations. Alternatively, if you are a performer, when you receive your performance contract it is important that the terms are clear and you are aware of your rights and obligations. Consequences can arise out of any breach to a legally binding contract.

In 2016 Frank Ocean released his visual album, Endless, only to unexpectedly launch his music album, Blonde, the next day. While his visual album was streamed through the Apple Music video stream and Def Jam/Universal Music Group, his music album was exclusively released on Apple Music by the singer’s own label, Boys Don’t Cry. The move was controversial because the strategic release of Endless fulfilled Ocean’s contract with Universal Music Group, allowing him to release his own album through the streaming service independently. The case represents the importance of contractual relationships within the entertainment industry.

Intellectual property

A registered trademark, such as a name or a brand, protects original ideas and inventions. It can also distinguish the brand from its competitors by preventing any unauthorised use. The protection of intellectual property in the entertainment industry is a hot topic, often because singers, actors and other celebrities can monetise their image and reputation through the sale of goods and services marked with their name or other association.

Taylor Swift addresses these concerns about privacy and security by trademarking phrases from her songs. To name a few, “Party Like It’s 1989”, “This Sick Beat” and “Nice To Meet You, Where You Been?” can only appear on accessories if you have been granted a licence to use the phrases. Items covered by her trademarks range from typewriters and guitar straps to removable tattoos. Having registered trademarks allows Swift to protect products of her intellectual property.

Employment Agreement

If you are an employee, it is important that your employment agreement specifies your rights and obligations to your employer. In addition, artists, individuals and businesses must also understand the extent of their contractual obligations to avoid any legal disputes and complications.

Melanie Brown, better known as Scary Spice, signed an agreement in 2012 with the Seven Network to act as a judge on X Factor. Under the agreement, Brown could not work for any other network, with the exception of the Seven Network until January 2014. Brown subsequently entered into a contract with the Nine Network to work as a judge on Australia’s Got Talent. Channel Seven took legal action, arguing that Mel B was in breach of her contract. They succeeded in obtaining an injunction, preventing Brown from working for any network other than Seven until 2014.

Why Do I Need An Entertainment Lawyer?

As many areas of law apply to the entertainment industry, from contract law to employment law, it is important to seek legal advice from an entertainment lawyer. If you are a business requiring the appropriate legal documentation to protect your interests, or an individual seeking legal advice about the terms in an employment contract, you will benefit from a consultation.

Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800LAWPATH to learn more about customising legal documents, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from one our network of 600+ expert lawyers or any other legal needs.

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