Entertainment law is the collection of the many areas of law that impact the entertainment industry. Entertainment law is the sum total of several different types of law that are relevant to the entertainment industry including transactional law and litigation. Laws that impact the entertainment industry include federal and state laws, rules created by government agencies and common law legal precedent created by the courts. Entertainment law impacts not only the talent that performs in the entertainment industry but also the production aspects of creating entertainment content.
Types of law that are part of entertainment law
There are many types of law that are all a part of entertainment law. An entertainment lawyer practices any of these types of law:
- Contract law in entertainment law – A large part of entertainment law is contract law. Some contracts in the entertainment industry last years while others are for a single event. Contracts in the entertainment industry might involve very large amounts of money. Drafting and negotiating contracts is a key part of entertainment law. Lawyers must work to carefully to negotiate agreements that are favorable to their clients. They must be mindful of issues like enforceability of contract terms and damages in the event of a breach.
- Non-compete agreements in entertainment law – Non-compete agreements are often a large part of entertainment law. A production company may want to develop a talent and promote them. They may want assurances from the talent that they aren’t going to go work for the competition for a period of time after their employment ends with the company. An agreement that restricts a talent from working for the competition is called a non-compete agreement. Both national on-air talents and local talents may have a non-compete agreement as part of their employment contract. However, non-compete agreements must be reasonable. Both creating a non-compete agreement and challenging its enforceability may be part of entertainment law.
- Litigation in entertainment law – Even carefully drafted contracts may result in disagreements in entertainment law. When there are disputes, people and organizations in the entertainment industry turn to litigation. They might use litigation to resolve contract disputes, torts, employment disputes and other types of wrongs or disagreements. Lawyers who practice litigation entertainment law must be skilled in civil procedure, trial advocacy and alternative dispute resolution in order to help their clients achieve favorable outcomes when entertainment leads to litigation.
- Labor and employment law in entertainment law – Entertainment lawyers must be mindful of labor and employment laws that apply to their industry. Whether it’s written law from a federal or state agency or it’s a negotiated union contract, entertainment lawyers who employ talent and production staff must be sure to follow labor and employment laws. Labor and employment laws that are applicable in the industry may relate to fair hiring practices, maximum allowed hours of work, workers compensation or safety regulations.
- Compliance law in entertainment law – Entertainment producers have to comply with a number of rules and regulations. The Federal Communications Commission creates regulations that apply to the entertainment industry. For example, there are FCC restrictions that prevent radio and television companies from owning too much control of any geographic market. In addition, if a radio or television station gives one political candidate time on the air, it must give equal opportunities to other political candidates. Entertainment companies rely on attorneys in order to help them comply with the myriad of regulations that oversee the entertainment and communications industries.
Standards and practices in entertainment law
Another important area of entertainment law is standards and practices. Standards and practices refers to the ethical and legal implications of an entertainment production. Lawyers help entertainment companies identify practices that might subject the company to legal liability. They help the company implement best practices in order to minimize legal liability.
For example, a standards and practice attorney may recommend removing obscene content from a broadcast in order to minimize the risk of a fine from the FCC. They might help the corporation address issues that may arise during the production of a game show. In the standards and practices process, attorneys help their clients do business in a way that minimizes legal risk to their clients in the entertainment industry.
Who practices entertainment law?
Entertainment lawyers are both transactional lawyers and litigation lawyers. While some entertainment lawyers do it all, most lawyers who practice entertainment law specialize in one subset of entertainment law. Because both transactional law and litigation can be complex, most lawyers find it practical to specialize in a type of entertainment law. While many entertainment lawyers practice exclusively entertainment law, some lawyers may encounter only the occasional case as part of a broader practice of contract law or litigation.
Attorneys in entertainment law work as both private practice attorneys and in-house counsel. Production studios may rely on in-house counsel for their legal needs. As an in-house counsel attorney, your single client is your employer. For entertainment lawyers in private practice, it’s common to have many clients whether they are individual talents or corporate entities.
Where do entertainment lawyers practice?
Most entertainment lawyers practice in the entertainment hotspots of the United States. You can find most entertainment lawyers in New York City, Los Angeles and Nashville. These cities are where most production studios operate and where there’s the most work to do.
Attorneys outside of these cities may still work in entertainment law in a limited capacity. More entertainment production takes places outside of major hub cities than ever before. In addition, local bands, radio talent, television talent and other entertainers may need entertainment lawyers in the cities where they live. Although attorneys outside of New York City, Los Angeles and Nashville may not sustain a full-time practice with entertainment law, they may still handle entertainment cases as part of their transactional law or litigation practice.
Entertainment lawyers are skilled communicators
Whether they practice entertainment law in a transactional law or litigation capacity, all entertainment lawyers must be highly skilled communicators. Entertainment lawyers must communicate with their clients so that their clients fully understand the consequences of their decisions and any agreements that they may agree to enter into. Transactional law in the entertainment industry relies heavily on negotiations. Production studies must carefully negotiate with talent. Often, these negotiations are high stakes. Entertainment-related litigation can involve large dollar amounts. Communication skills are critical for all attorneys who work in the field of entertainment law.
Why become an entertainment lawyer?
Entertainment law can be a fun, challenging and fast-paced legal career. It can provide for a steady and rewarding career that focuses exclusively on entertainment law or that includes entertainment law cases as part of a broader practice. Whether you prefer the courtroom, drafting documents or pouring over regulations, entertainment law has something to offer for most attorneys.
If you want to live in New York, Los Angeles or Nashville, practicing entertainment law exclusively may be an option. There are opportunities to either go into private practice or work as in-house counsel for an entertainment company. While some entertainment lawyers work with famous clients, much of the work of entertainment law involves drafting documents, negotiating agreements and complying with regulations. Lawyers who practice litigation also utilize alternative dispute resolution.
Some of the practice of entertainment law is unique to the entertainment industry like standards and practices and laws that relate to media ownership shares and equal access for political candidates. Other issues in entertainment law are common to other industries like labor and employment law and workers compensation. Entertainment law allows an attorney to focus on a niche type of law and apply it to the entertainment industry. Entertainment lawyers often develop a highly unique skill set that is in high demand in the industry.
The serious business of entertainment
Entertainment law is many different types of law combined. Contract law, labor and employment law, transactional law and other types of law all combine into the field of entertainment law. Lawyers who practice entertainment law help their clients understand the laws and regulations that apply to them. They help their clients negotiate agreements and resolve disputes while they occur.
Entertainment law provides wide-ranging options for attorneys. You might work as in-house counsel, or you might work in private practice. You may practice exclusively entertainment law in New York, Los Angeles or Nashville, or you might handle entertainment law cases as part of a diverse legal practice anywhere in the United States. Entertainment law provides opportunities and options to be a part of an exciting field.