Entertainment law is a diverse field of law that integrates contracts and intellectual property law. Every book, movie script, or television show must grapple with these legal issues.
In the entertainment industry, protecting your ideas from the exploitation of others is a major concern. Entertainment and media lawyers rely on both copyright and trademark law to protect the intellectual property rights of their clients.
A copyright is the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, and sell an artistic expression. Copyright protects artistic works such as novels, video games, movies, paintings, photographs, sheet music, and any other form of tangible expression. Obtaining a copyright prevents the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, adaptation, and public performance of your work. In order to comply with copyright law, an entity that uses a copyrighted work is required to secure permission from the original artist, and in most cases, pay a licensing fee.
The life of a copyright depends on when the work was produced and submitted for copyright protection.
- For works published after 1977, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years
- All works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain
- Works created after 1923, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication
A trademark is a distinguishing characteristic or feature firmly associated with a person or thing. Trademarks are legally reserved to the exclusive use of the owner as maker or seller. In the entertainment industry, trademarks are key to establishing product identity and recognition.
Unlike copyrights, trademarks do not expire. As long as the trademark is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, trademark rights will last for an infinite time, even after the death of the original creator.
The entertainment industry poses many potential legal complications. Consulting with a business attorney prior to negotiating any formal contracts or copyright privileges is always a wise thing to do. Speaking with the proper entertainment lawyer will inform you of your rights in the entertainment industry and protect your interests.