It’s that time of the year again when the film industry celebrates excellence, with the 88th Academy Awards. But the entertainment business is notoriously contentious, and lawsuits often have a backstage role in those movies we take for granted.
Recently, Ridley Scott’s The Martian was at the centre of a lawsuit alleging the script was plagiarised. Warner Bros has just won the latest round of a lawsuit involving Superman rights that stemmed from a transfer of copyright in 1938. And a technology used to animate the faces of digital superheroes in Deadpool and Avengers: Age of Ultron, is now causing a super legal battle. Indeed, it’s fair to say that there’s at least as much drama going on behind the scenes at the Oscars, than there is in the cinemas.
In fact, no Hollywood movies get made without entertainment lawyers to look after the film’s best interests. As a result, areas entertainment lawyers can specialise in range vastly – from contract law to intellectual property, international law, taxation, litigation and even immigration.
Whether it’s Quentin Tarantino taking legal action against Gawker for allegedly facilitating copyright infringement, or the death of assistant camerawoman, Sarah Jones, during the filming of Gregg Allman’s Midnight Rider, entertainment law is big business.
At the heart of the entertainment industry is the need to maintain and protect brands – personal and otherwise. So, while some entertainment lawyers represent individual stars, others are employed by production companies to protect the rights of anything from a storyline to a set-artist’s concept sketch.
As a result, there’s a lot of overlap in the areas that entertainment lawyers encounter in their day-to-day schedules. Legal spheres they touch on include employment, contract, intellectual property, labour, bankruptcy, defamation, taxation, advertising and insurance law.
In addition to the more typical skills – like an eye for detail, problem solving ability and excellent verbal and written communication, in-depth industry knowledge is essential. Many entertainment lawyers are as well-connected as senior producers and directors, with extensive ‘people networks’ to call on. With this in mind, if you’re interested in entertainment law, it can pay to start the networking process early.
Multitasking is another essential skill for legal entertainment execs. Top entertainment lawyers can have as many as 60 open deals at any one time – and spend much of their day on the telephone communicating with a spectrum of people from clients, agents and managers to studio executives and lawyers for film financiers. Downtime is often spent catching up with essential paperwork – like writing and reviewing contracts, and making sure the details in the small print protect clients’ best interests.
Given all of this, if you love movies, TV and music, entertainment law can be an enthralling and rewarding career. And who knows, one day you might be the driving force behind the next big star or Hollywood blockbuster.
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