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Entertainment Law Overview and Information
Entertainment law encompasses legal areas such as copyright, trademark, contract, multimedia law, intellectual property, and book publishing. Related areas of law include First Amendment law, telecommunications law, sports law, and all areas of intellectual property law. The personal service agreement is a primary legal instrument in the entertainment industry. This agreement is negotiated between an artist and a company that manufactures, promotes, and distributes the artist's goods or services. The agreement often commits the artist to produce exclusively for one company for a certain period of time. Personal service agreements are often governed by statutes, and are often the subject of litigation because of the restrictions placed on the rights of artists to perform or create for other entities.
Many times, a contract for rights is combined with a personal service agreement. The agreement will often state that any work created by the artist during the term of the agreement is considered a work for hire. In a work for hire situation, the employer often receives automatic ownership of the copyright to the artist's work. For a work for hire to exist, the artist must either be an employee of the company or create the work under a valid contract, and the work must fall under certain categories defined by copyright law.
A license is a contract through which the artist or copyright holder grants certain rights to another party. For instance, a novelist might grant a license to a film studio to create a screenplay based on a novel. A license specifies the fee or royalty to be paid to the artist, the exact scope of use of the copyrighted material, and the time period for which the company may use the material, as well as any other conditions the parties agree to attach to the license.
U.S. copyright law contains provisions specifically covering the entertainment industry. For example, a licensee who records a song under a compulsory license is required to follow strict statutory guidelines for notification of its use and reporting sales and royalties to the copyright holder. A compulsory license requires a copyright holder to grant a license to anyone else who wants to record that song, and arises when a song's copyright owner has previously granted permission to someone to record a song or if the songwriter has recorded and commercially released a recording of the song. The fee for a compulsory license is set by Congress, and is adjusted for inflation every few years.
The advance of technology and digital publishing has expanded traditional entertainment legal issues. For example, the value of digital downloading rights, and how this will become an increasingly important point in recording contracts.
Entertainment lawyers handle issues such as contract negotiation, licensing, sponsorship/endorsement agreements, etc. In addition, most of the attorneys who practice in this area also provide a full range of tax and estate planning services.