Whether you are a music production hobbyist, professional filmmaker, or YouTube sensation, you have probably encountered some aspect of entertainment law. Perhaps you have wondered about the legality of sampling, or maybe you have received a takedown notice for a video you uploaded. Copyrights, trademarks, contracts, license agreements, and business transactions are all a part of entertainment law. If you have works of art to publish, especially works you plant to monetize, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced attorney. Many of us at Navigate Law Group are musicians ourselves; we understand the dynamics of the arts and entertainment industry and love to help other artists and entrepreneurs protect their rights and interests.
A copyright protects unique works of authorship, consisting of writings, music, and works of art that have been tangibly expressed. Songs, films, works of high-quality art, books, or even a few choreographed works can have copyrights. While copyrights may be registered with the Library of Congress, registration is not required for a copyright to exist. Just because you may have found an unregistered song or sample online does not mean it is available for public use. Copyrights exist automatically as soon as the work is created. If you intend to use an existing sample or part of a song in one of your own creations, regardless of the sample’s length, you should seek permission from the original artist. Sometimes, it can be difficult to discern whether the original artist actually had the copyright in the first place. Navigate Law Group can help!
The entertainment industry is more than just content creators and producers; it is made up of many different entities and business partners, all providing different specialized services. Artists may have contracts with companies that manufacture, promote, and distribute artists’ works. Music studios may have contracts with independent audio engineers or beat producers. Record labels may have contracts with apparel companies to promote artists’ work. Sometimes these industry participants fail to reduce their agreements to writing, creating unnecessary confusion and sometimes litigation. No matter what side of negotiation you are on, it is imperative that you have an attorney on your side who understands how to protect you with a written agreement.
Under a licensing agreement, the holder of intellectual property rights (such as a copyright or trademark) agrees to license the use of some portion of these intellectual property rights to someone else in exchange for compensation, whether by up-front lump sum payment or a percentage of monies earned over time. Just like any other contract, licensing agreements should be drafted carefully and thoughtfully. Some fundamentals to consider are: when and how is the agreement terminated, what exactly can the licensee do with the intellectual property, and what remedies are available if the licensee breaches the contract?
“If I Could Fly”
In December, 2008, guitarist Joe Satriani sued the band Coldplay, alleging the band used substantial original portions of his 2004 song “If I Could Fly” in Coldplay’s Grammy-winning hit, “Viva La Vida.” Coldplay responded that Satriani’s own song lacked originality, insinuating that Satriani copied someone else’s work to create “If I Could Fly.” In the end, the case was dismissed after an out-of-court settlement.
It is estimated that around 160,000 YouTube channels have over 100,000 subscribers.
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Trevor J. Cartales
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