It is hardly surprising that Entertainment Lawyers specialize in working with people and companies in the arts and entertainment field. If you are a writer, for example, you will be wise to retain a lawyer before signing a book publishing deal. In the case of a script or screenplay, before entering into a contract with a production company, you will similarly want to have a lawyer, if not directly negotiate your deal, at least advise you both about the legalese in the contract with which you have been presented and about whether or not the terms of the offer is fair.
Because Entertainment Law is, in a technical sense, nothing more than Contract Law in a unique and specialized setting (the arts & entertainment industry) with Copyright Law thrown in for good measure, virtually any experienced Contract Lawyer could advise a writer or artist about the terms of a contract. Where the Entertainment Lawyer’s specialized knowledge is most useful is advising about whether the deal you are being offered is fair against what is standard in the industry. If you are publishing your first novel or optioning your first screenplay, you may not know if the terms you are being offered are what other people in similar circumstances get. You also may not know if there is anything about your particular work that means you should get a premium. Lastly, you may not be fully aware of all the other industry players who might have a potential interest in your work and who, at that moment, might be willing to bid higher for reasons particular to their business situations. A different publisher, for example, may wish to expand its offerings to a genre it has not offered before and your book might be the perfect launch vehicle for that initiative.
If you are a painter, sculptor, fine art photographer, you will most likely want to have an Entertainment Lawyer draw up the standard form contract you will have buyers sign when you sell a work. In addition to providing a place for you to enter the price or each piece sold, it will include important terms with respect to intellectual property rights you may wish to retain after the sale.
If they are members of a union or professional organization, actors, dancers, and musicians may not need the services of a lawyer as frequently as others. However, as performing artists’ careers progress, they will most certainly want to retain an Entertainment Lawyer to ensure their compensation is commensurate with their public profile. A lawyer can also assist when negotiating the terms of an agreement with an agent or manager.
If you are on the other side of the table, a production company or publisher, for example, you will most likely need to have an Entertainment Lawyer on retainer for any difficult situations or unusual demands or that may arise.