Among the facets of modern life that the Internet has revolutionized, the ease of instant access to entertainment is perhaps the most significant. Online TV, movies, literature and music are always available in ever-changing titles and formats. Because of the dynamic, fast-paced nature of the Internet, the industries producing online content (or traditional content that seems to magically appear online) are generating huge new legal issues regarding intellectual property rights. For artists and producers alike, trying to make sense of this relatively new area of law without an intellectual property lawyer or some other legal specialist is pure folly. There is simply too much information – much of which is not set in stone – to go it alone. People or firms that create or handle intellectual property in the entertainment arena find themselves in a more advantageous position when they have an entertainment lawyer on their side.
Complications and Challenges
A copyright lawyers faces numerous challenges, from the complex legal structure that governs intellectual property to the complications that can arise when international borders are crossed. This is especially problematic when litigation becomes necessary, as language barriers – both written and spoken – can make detecting infringement and pursuing some kind of redress very difficult. However, intellectual property is, by nature, borderless, so legal specialists in the field must also have expertise in international law.
Other challenges faced by entertainment lawyers have to do with the copyright infringement that occurs each time an Internet user illegally downloads an MP3 song or streams a pirated movie file. Millions of people do it, many of whom assume they’re doing nothing wrong, but that is certainly not the case. Illegal file sharing and downloading unauthorized and copyrighted material are some of the most widespread forms of infringement. And making CD-R copies of music downloaded legally and then distributing them is an equally egregious offense.
Combating infringement in this arena requires a specialist devoted to this area of law. Only by adhering to the rules and regulations that have sprung up since the onset of the digital age – and enforcing them when necessary – can the future of intellectual property be protected.
Types of Talent
Any individual or entity that writes, creates, produces, underwrites or licenses intellectual property stands to gain from the services of a legal specialist such as a trademark attorney. Virtually any type of artistic creation constitutes intellectual property, from a scored, hand-written symphony to the master tapes of a band’s new album. Books, television programs, movies, photographs – even online blogs, essays and articles are considered property of an intellectual sort.
Merchandisers, licensers and any other person or entity that wishes to use a jingle, an image, a clip or anything that belongs to someone else requires a skilled legal player in the field to ensure that all legal measures are taken prior to use. Use of intellectual property without proper prior authorization is basically stealing, so the ramifications for failure to obtain that authorization can be very costly.
Legal Services: Transaction vs. Litigation Attorney
There are a number of reasons an artist or other type of intellectual property holder might need an attorney. Typically it involves one of two things: transaction or litigation. In essence, it may be said that whereas the former has to do with agreements, the latter has to do with disputes. A transaction attorney negotiates and drafts all kinds of contractual agreements, from recording contracts to licensing contracts. Merchandising, syndication and applying for a trademark, for example, all fall into this category.
By contrast, a litigation attorney is trained in handling disputes. In the entertainment industry, especially since the rise of the Internet, these disputes, otherwise known as infringement litigation, occur all the time. Given the sheer number of producers, artists and intermediaries in the entertainment industry, the possibilities for litigation are almost endless. For this reason, lawyers specializing in litigation are in demand. The challenge for these professionals is keeping up with the ever changing dynamics of the Internet in order to best protect their clients.
With the Internet, the distribution of virtually all forms of entertainment has become incredibly easy, but it’s also led to a culture of copyright abuse. Many consider the Internet as the supreme leveler of what once was an uneven playing field. Movie, television and music file-sharing websites are hugely popular, leading to the belief that if they’re out there and haven’t been shut down, the pilfering of copyrighted material must be okay. Many users don’t realize, however, that these websites have passed the liability onto the user. They might have created a platform from which to access these illegal files, but any individual accessing file sharing platforms are usually held to account.
Consequences include lawsuits and fines levied upon individuals who download material illegally. In rare cases, criminal charges can result. The claim by many individuals who have already been prosecuted that they didn’t know the material wasn’t free is disregarded in most courtrooms. Common sense is supposed to prevail, and almost everyone knows that there is very little in life that is truly free. Many universities, too, are cracking down on students who violate copyrights using the school’s .edu server, with disciplinary action becoming the norm.
So how are perpetrators of this theft found? Again, the nature of the Internet has made it easy. File sharing creates an open portal to ones hard drive, which not only exposes the computer to viruses, and can lead to data theft, but also helps anyone wishing to prosecute, identifying information about the user. Why Do Artists and Producers Need Lawyers?
In the music industry alone, over the last decade or so, a third of the revenue formerly generated by the industry has been lost due to ease of piracy on the world-wide web. No one wants to work for less than what they consider their fair value, and entertainers are no exception. Security features are becoming more sophisticated in an attempt to stop the online thefts, but intellectual property attorneys, both those involved in transactions as well as the litigators know that they are secure in the need for their services, now and in the foreseeable future. They will continue to crack down on violators with every legal means necessary in order to protect their clients.
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Author Stephen Daniels highly recommends Baker & Rannells for those seeking professional trademark lawyers in New York. Their legal team has more than 63 years experience in both the U.S. and around the world. Their team will work on your behalf and can assist with research, registration and infringement litigation when appropriate.