Entertainment law is a broad legal area that encompasses a variety of topics, such as intellectual property protection, endorsements, licenses and personal service contracts. There can be legal disputes between actors, musicians, athletes, filmmakers, composers, screenwriters and producers.
Entertainment law can also be important when negotiating contracts, establishing protection against piracy of artistic works and resolving copyright issues.
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Whether the work is published or not, its creator may choose to protect his or her copyright. This protection gives the creator the exclusive right to reproduce, display and distribute the work. With copyright, protection begins on the date of creation of the work and extends throughout the life of the author and, in most cases, for another 70 years after his or her death.
A frequent example of copyright protection may be the proposed use of all or part of a song in a television commercial. In that case, the creators of the commercial must obtain permission from the composer.
While it is no longer necessary to register with the U.S. Copyright Office to receive protection, there are some advantages to doing so. In addition to leaving a public record of the work, registration of works created in the U.S. is necessary in order to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. The registration process can be initiated at any time while the copyright is in effect.
Justified use is an important exception which should be highlighted and circumvents the permit requirement. In general, fair use allows copyrighted material to be used for a limited and transformative purpose, e.g. to comment on, criticise or parody it. An example might be citing the lyrics of a song in a music review or Weird Al Yankovic use of another artist music to make a parody.
Contracts in the entertainment industry often contain clauses relating to agent representation, record labels, licenses, proposed surety agreements, royalties and payments, terms of employment, among others. In many cases, aspiring actors run the risk of being exploited by TV and film producers by including irrational contractual clauses. Therefore, it would be best if a lawyer specializing in entertainment law reviewed the contracts before signing.
In the event that one of the parties breaches an entertainment contract, an attorney specializing in the subject matter may negotiate to resolve the dispute. If no settlement is reached, the attorney with litigation experience can prepare and file a suit for breach of contract in the appropriate state or federal court.
Not all people working in the entertainment industry are public people. The industry employs a lot of behind-the-scenes people. These workers may or may not be paid for their work, but most are protected by employment laws that guarantee their right to improve their working conditions and to organize, for example, in unions, or to work independently. In some cases, underage artists are protected by employment laws that restrict the type of work they can do and the hours they can work.
As with other occupations, entertainment workers may file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the appropriate state agency in response to workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, and other forms of unlawful conduct.
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This article is intended to be useful and informative. But legal issues can become complicated and stressful. A qualified sports and entertainment lawyer can attend to your particular legal needs, explain the law and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a qualified sports and entertainment lawyer near you to discuss your specific legal situation.