When most people picture the work of an attorney, they probably imagine someone standing in front of a jury trying to convince twelve men and women, using strong facts and emotion, to see their way on a particular case. Thanks to television and movies, this characterization of a lawyer certainly is reasonable. And, there are amazing trial lawyers who do spend their careers in a courtroom arguing on behalf of their clients. The reality is, though, that the overwhelming amount of work that falls to most attorneys is done far from the spotlight created by a public trial. Instead, the men and women of the legal profession usually work behind the scenes to protect the professions, reputations, and finances of those for whom they work. Such is the case with the attorneys that practice entertainment law, and in Texas the need for such lawyers is found for a diverse set of circumstances within the many creative fields that find a home in our state.
Entertainment law covers a wide spectrum of issues that affect people who are in some way involved with the arts. Clients requiring the services of an entertainment attorney can include athletes, actors, singers, songwriters, producers and anyone else who uses their talents for enjoyment by the public. Just think about all of the ways in which someone in the field of entertainment would require legal protection. There is a constant threat to one’s reputation courtesy of disgruntled workers and paparazzi. Imagine if someone like Angelina Jolie and now Jon or Kate Gosselin had to address all of the tabloid rumors themselves. Also, there is the need to make sure that an actor will receive his due not only when a television show first airs, but when it lives on through syndication and DVD sales. With new technologies capturing movies and television programs in ways not anticipated just a few years ago, actors are eager to renegotiate contracts for future compensation. Or, suppose you are a serious artist whose paintings hang on the most respected galleries in Austin, Houston, San Antonio or Dallas. Do you want your artwork to be copied and then mass-produced onto t-shirts to be worn by every teenager in Texas? Through copyright laws, entertainment attorneys can protect your images so that they are used only in the context that you desire.
While there is no shortage of entertainment of any type in Texas, there are two areas that are of particular importance in our state. We have an amazing music industry in Texas, with Austin especially being known for its cultivation of talent. Singers, songwriters, music producers, record label owners-all have significant investment in the talent that is being packaged. Artist recording contracts must be written to determine a singer’s ties to a record label as well as the freedom he or she will have in the creative process. What if another artist loves your work and wants to integrate it into his own new recording? Attorneys will be needed to prepare the necessary licenses for music sampling. And, even though the singers who appear on stage in sold-out arenas and find themselves in heavy rotation on the weekly video countdown are the ones who usually get the glory for a great song, songwriters need to know that their work is being validated both financially and with due recognition when appropriate.
In addition to the wonderful music that Texans offer the rest of the world, everyone knows that the residents of our great state love their sports. Whether we are cheering on our favorite high school team under the lights on a Friday night or welcoming home the most famous cyclist on the planet from yet another improbable victory, we have an appreciation for athletes and the value that they bring to our recreational time. With this emphasis engrained on kids throughout the Lone Star State, it is no surprise that we have more than our share of athletes raised in our state. Also, great athletes come to Texas from around the country to play for one of our many professional organizations. All of these men and women need contracts to ensure that they are fairly compensated for their contributions to the sport of their choice. Over the course of a career, it is not unlikely that an athlete will need an attorney to assist with disputes involving agents, managers, or players’ associations. We all have seen the news stories detailing what happens when salary negotiations break down or a player doesn’t feel he is getting the time of the field that he deserves. What about the opportunities for income that may present themselves away from the sports venue? When you see Dale Earnhardt, Jr. endorsing Wrangler Jeans or Tiger Woods speaking of the great virtues of Gatorade, you can be sure that lawyers were involved in the negotiations for these partnerships.
Men and women who choose to pursue a career within the entertainment industry will almost certainly find the need for legal representation at some point. Even with the smoothest of professional experiences, entertainers must deal with such necessary acts as signing contracts, preparing a tour schedule, and lending their image to others seeking an endorsement. When problems arise, the issues are often magnified through the lens of celebrity and an aggressive and dedicated Entertainment law attorney is required. When an artist or athlete is not getting properly compensated, when efforts are made to extort money in return for tantalizing information that may or may not be true, or when injuries occur due to inappropriate working conditions, the role of the entertainment lawyer becomes even more imperative.
Due to its flourishing music scene and renowned athletic traditions, as well as efforts being made by our state to attract more movie production (notwithstanding Michigan and Louisiana), Texas easily can place itself among states like California and New York that perhaps are the most obvious locations in which entertainment law is prolific. If you live or work in Texas and have a connection to some aspect of an entertainment-related industry, you should make the retention of an attorney a top priority. When an issue develops that may affect your livelihood or even your very well-being, you will be able to take action immediately.
Tony R. Bertolino is the managing partner at Bertolino LLP with law offices located in Austin, Houston and San Antonio, Texas. A member of the Trial and Appellate Litigation Team, Mr. Bertolino’s practice is devoted largely to complex transactions, commercial litigation, business law, entertainment law and family law matters. You can read more about Mr. Bertolino at http://www.belolaw.com
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