Entertainment Law

Lawyers take their practices to the stage, TV – and the conference room

Say the words “entertainment law” and many students and young attorneys conjure up images of representing television, film and rock stars, complete with invitations to parties and complimentary tickets.

In reality, however, the everyday practice of entertainment law is not all that glamorous, and for a lawyer in this area, it involves disciplines, ranging from corporate transactions to intellectual property and a chance to serve a variety of clients working in the entertainment field.

Chicago Lawyer spoke with attorneys, teachers and students to see what skills lawyers must exercise, how the area has changed and what opportunities exist.

Not many firms in the midwest focus primarily on entertainment law. Intellectual property attorneys at large firms sometimes have entertainment clients, but they do not devote their entire practice to them.

Early in his career, David Adler focused on technology and software clients in corporate and IP transactions and litigation matters. An early concentration in IP began in law school, jumping into e-commerce in the late 1990s.

“I started my own practice and over time I found myself doing more arts and entertainment work,” Adler said. “As the Internet and e-commerce took off, people in the entertainment industry were looking for someone who really understood the way things worked, so you might say I was in the right place at the right time.”

Entertainment and media law are terms applied to a mix of more traditional legal subjects. The differentiating factor is the focus on providing legal services to the entertainment industry. Generally speaking, entertainment law often involves questions of labor & employment law, immigration, securities law, security interests, agency and intellectual property (copyright, trademarks, Rights of Publicity and Privacy). Much of the work of an entertainment law practice is transaction based, i.e. drafting contracts, negotiation and mediation. Some disputes may lead to litigation or arbitration.

David M. Adler has been identified as an Illinois Rising Star in the areas of First Amendment & Media Law since 2009 and designated by his peers as an Illinois Leading Lawyer in 2016 and an Illinois SuperLawyer® for a sixth consecutive year, both in the areas of Intellectual Property and Entertainment & Media Law.

Outside the practice of law, David taught Music Law as an Adjunct Professor at DePaul College of Law, and previously taught both Entertainment Law at Columbia College Chicago. David formerly chaired the Chicago Bar Association’s Media & Entertainment Law Committee.

Entertainment law is generally categorized based upon the types of activities and each has its own specific trade union, production techniques, rules, customs, case law, and negotiation strategies. The firm has a wide range of experience, including counseling clients on the following:

  • Films. Filmmaking, Film Productions: option and rewrite agreements, finance, title issues, talent (scriptwriters, film directors, actors, composers, set designers), production and post production, trade union issues, distribution, motion picture industry, and general intellectual property issues.
  • Multimedia: software, video game development and production, ecommerce, social networking/social media.
  • Publishing & Print Media: advertising, model and talent agreements, author agreements, film options, distribution and copyright-related issues.
  • Music: talent (musicians, composers, producers), synchronization rights, recording agreements music industry negotiation and general intellectual property issues.
  • TV & Radio: employment agreements, broadcast licensing and regulatory issues, mechanical licenses.
  • Theater & Dance: lease and rental agreements, production, co-production and finance agreements, and other performance-oriented legal issues.
  • Visual Arts & Design: including fine arts, issues of consignment of artworks to art dealers, moral rights of sculptors regarding works in public places; and industrial design, issues related to the protection of graphic design elements in products.
  • Defamation/First Amendment: (libel (print) and slander (verbal)), publicity rights and privacy rights issues.