So with all the talk about the industry and becoming an artist or new artist I figured you may need some legal advice. So I called on an attorney friend to answer a couple of questions you may have when presented with things such as contracts and copyrighting. Now remember because he isn’t physically giving you the advice as your attorney for your specific issue make sure you get a second opinion.
R|A: What is Intellectual Property and why should people have that copyrighted?
A|B: Intellectual property define your legal ownership interest in the expression of certain of your ideas. There are three basic flavors of intellectual property: patents, which cover manufactured goods; trademarks, which cover commercial identifiers like company names and logos; and copyrights, which cover "original works of authorship" like screenplays, films, novels and songs, among many others. Of these three flavors, copyright is the most relevant for artists, since it protects their creative works. You have a copyright in a work by virtue of creating it. So, if you sit down and pick out a song on the guitar, then congratulations, you own the copyright to that creative work without taking any further action. But, if you ever get in a dispute over the copyright, then you need to be able to prove that you made the creative work and that you made it at the time you say you made it. For that purpose, it is incredibly useful to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, which you can do for $35 at eco.copyright.gov. So, if you're going to send your stuff around -- like your screenplay -- register it first.
R|A: What common issue do artists come to you for?
A|B: I generally help individual artists and independent production companies with contract negotiation and drafting, to make sure that their deals fully reflect the parties' understanding. A lot of artists, particularly actors, also receive agreements from big companies -- studios or agencies, for example -- and ask me to review the agreement before they sign.
R|A: Now you’re involved in producing and acting, as well.What lessons have you learned from the artist’s point of view?
A|B: I'm a co-founder of Space Oddity Films, a production company, and TMK Studios, a mobile app studio, so I have experience making stuff, in addition to advising my clients regarding their stuff. The biggest lesson I've learned is that it's very difficult to think about the artistic side and the legal side of a project at the same time. People (myself included) often think that they don't need contracts because they're working with friends, or they're working on a small production. And maybe they have a great time and it's fine. But if a problem arises, if you get in a fight with your partners about who wrote the lyrics, or who has final cut on the movie, or -- the worst -- about money, then you're going to wish you had taken the time to make a contract. If you write one song or make one movie, then maybe you get away with it, but if your full-time occupation is working as a creative person, then you will eventually get in a dispute with someone, and you need to protect yourself with contracts.
R|A: What do you find to be the biggest issue involving entertainers?
A|B: I've practiced law in a lot of different fields, and entertainers aren't that different from the other businesspeople. The most common problem people encounter in business is that they make deals without a contract, or with a contract that they don't understand, or with a very badly written contract that no one understands. Regardless, the most important thing an artist, or anyone, can do to protect himself or herself in business is to be extremely careful about choosing business partners. Bad partners make bad business, and knowing people socially is totally different from going into business with them. Know your business partners.
R|A: Is it possible for new artist to be manipulated or bullied into contracts? And how do you help them get out of the one sided contract?
A|B: It is possible for anyone to be bullied or manipulated into a contract. Artists (new or otherwise) may be more vulnerable to bad contracts than people in other professions because artists are often so desperate to land a part, or sell a screenplay, or sign with a label. Getting out of bad contracts is tough. It can sometimes be done, but it is usually not simple or easy. As I said before, the best way to protect yourself is to make sure you know the people you're getting into business with. You have to ask questions, you have to do research, you cannot assume that you are having your "big break" and that everything will just work out. Google and IMDB are your friends -- ask them before you go into business with anybody.
R|A: About how much would you say it cost for most attorneys to view contracts?
A|B: It depends on the attorney. I will review a contract for a flat fee of $150 per 10 pages.
R|A: Can you briefly explain copyright infringement?
A|B: If you write a song, and somebody sells it without your permission, that's copyright infringement.
R|A: Briefly explain what can happen if an artist is in void of their contract?
A|B: An old man with a big cigar grabs you by the ears and tells you that you'll never work in this town again. No, not really. What happens if you breach a contract depends on the contract, and depends on the person on the other side of the contract. The best case scenario is that nothing happens -- the person on the other side says, "oh well" and doesn't do anything. The worst case scenario is that the person on the other side sues you for damages. In general, you shouldn't make a contract that you don't think you can honor. And if you do get in a situation where you can't complete a contract, then work with the people on the other side of the contract so that they don't feel cheated. That's true in any industry, but especially in one as small as entertainment.
R|A: Where can people find you in the event they need a good attorney? Are you on social media?
A|B: I'm always available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (424) 258-0842. As for social media, the best place to find me is on my website, www.adambloomesq.com, or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/kadambloom.
Just a note, as a disclaimer -- none of this constitutes legal advice or creates an attorney-client relationship between me and anyone who reads this. This is just general information. Thanks again, Roman.