Category: Entertainment Law

band performing

Recording Industry Contracts – What To Look For

band performing
Negotiate your recording industry contract

The Ins and Outs of Recording Industry Contracts

One of the most exciting moments in an artist’s career is when he or she receives his first recording contract.  This can represent your  “big break” and an opportunity to market your music and gain more fans, followers and ultimately sales. The smart artist carefully reviews his contract before committing to any music marketing company, recording industry contract, or other agreement.  This is extremely important.  Committing yourself to the wrong contract can limit your artistic freedom, obligate you to produce a nearly impossible amount of music in a short period of time, and restrict you from working with your favorite musicians or producers. Here is a list for some common things to look out for:

Your minimum recording commitment

In summary, your minimum recording commitment (or “MRC”) spells out how much music you have to produce for the marketing company or record label in exchange for their services.  The MRC can be phrased in terms of the number of singles or number of albums, or sometimes both.  Have a good idea based on your experience of how long it takes you to produce a song or album.  You  will need to have enough time to create a quality product without sacrificing your artistic integrity, which is what brought you the contract in the first place.  The timeframe for meeting your MRC can often be pretty tight, which brings us to our next point:

The Recording Industry Contract Term

Rather than being for a year or for a certain number of albums, many recording industry contracts create several back-to-back terms that obligate you to meet your MRC within each term.  These can be as short as six months.  The contract typically gives the label or marketing company the option, but not the obligation, to cancel or renew the contract at the end of the each term while keeping the work you have produced thus far.  This often a pretty one-sided deal.  You may not have the same right to cancel if you’re unhappy with the relationship.  Ideally you would want either one of you to have the option to cancel the relationship after each successive term or extend the whole term in the recording industry contract so there is more of a mutual commitment.

Getting a Win-Win Deal

You scratch my back I’ll scratch yours as they say.  Many recording industry contracts are pretty thin on detail when it comes to what exactly the record label or marketing company will do for you.  You should have a very clear idea of what you want out of the deal and how the company plans to give it to you.  Are you looking for social media promotion?  Bookings?  Paying for your production and CD costs?  Perfecting your listings on iTunes, submitting your material to Spotify and Pandora and registering you with the performing rights organizations?  These are all critical parts of marketing your music.  Keep in mind too that most of the money in the music industry is made in live performances and merchandising rather than unit sales.  Be aware of  smaller companies that claim to have hot “industry contacts”.  Such companies often claim that they’ve worked with big artists and launched their careers.  Obviously these claims may be true, and this might be a great relationship for you, just be aware of claims that are very hard to prove.  Do your homework. What does their website look like?  How long have they been in business?  Exactly which artists having worked with and is their name on those artists websites or CDs, etc.

Music Industry Relationships and Leverage

Always know who has more bargaining power in any relationship.  If you’re looking at a contract from Virgin Music or Sony, suffice it to say that there’s probably not a whole lot you can do in terms of negotiating terms, and you are probably lucky to have such an opportunity.  If you’re dealing with a smaller company though, know that they might be hungry just as you are, and you may have more power negotiating terms if you already have an established fan base, merchandising relationships, and other things going for you that make you easier to market.  It’s sort of like the joke about getting a loan – the only people who get them are those who don’t need them.  The best contracts go to artists that have already done a lot for themselves and already have a following.

Getting the right advice in advance can make the difference between hitting it big and ending up with an impossible situation.  Call me for consultation and contract review.  A little good advice and perspective at the beginning can save you a lot of headaches down the road and open you up to  win-win deals that will deliver what you’re really looking for.

Ari Good, Esq.

(786) 235-8371

Public domain Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is (Free) for the Public Domain

Sherlock Holmes in the Public Domain? Elementary My Dear Watson.

A federal judge recently ruled that Sherlock Holmes (and most of his story) belongs to the public. The legendary sleuth first made his appearance in 1887. Author Conan Doyle would go on to publish four novels and 56 stories about Holmes’ exploits until his death in 1930. All but 10 of those stories, notably, were printed before 1923. The judge, in applying U.S. Copyright law, used the 1923 year as the cut-off line for what is, and what isn’t, in the public domain when it comes to Sherlock Holmes. Anything before that year can be used by anyone. Stories after January 1, 1923, are still protected by copyright law, however.

What is the “Public Domain”?

Public domain is the simple concept that, after a certain amount of years, copyrighted work no longer enjoys protection. The public is free to use formerly copyrighted works in any way they choose and don’t have to pay an author, the author’s estate, or a copyright holder. It’s free! Federal law, however, has consistently shifted the goalposts for how long it takes a copyrighted work to enter the public domain.

The first U.S. Copyright Act in 1790 allowed a term of copyright for 14 years, and the author could renew that copyright for 14 more years. By 1909, the copyright term had doubled to 28 years with an option for a 28 year renewal of the original term. Thanks to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, federal law now authorizes a copyright term that covers the author’s entire life, and then 70 more years after that. A young musician or writer, for example, who publishes work in 2013 when they’re 25, lives until they’re 85, would have that work copyrighted for 130 years (or until 2143).

Why is 1923 Important to U.S. Copyright Law and Public Domain?

Public domain Sherlock Holmes
“We’re in the public domain Holmes?”
“Indubitably.”

January 1, 1923, is a date to know when it comes to copyright law. Works that authors published before this date are in the public domain and not protected by copyright. No exceptions. A complex web of laws and calculations, however, apply to works published after this date to determine whether there is still copyright protection. You can find specific details about those calculations here.

Copyright Law, Sherlock Holmes, and Public Domain.

In a nuanced decision, the federal judge held fast to this sticking point of January 1, 1923. He ruled that the parts of of Sherlock Holmes’ and Dr. Watson’s story published before 1923 are in the public domain. Parts of that story published after that date, including Dr. Watson’s background as an athlete, Dr. Watson’s second wife, and Holmes’ retirement, are still protected by copyright law and owned by Doyle’s family.

The judge rejected arguments that the Sherlock Holmes’ literature was a single story-line that couldn’t be separated before and after 1923. In other words:

1. Doyle’s publication of Sherlock Holmes literature before 1923 does not make the entire story-line public domain (Sherlock Holmes publications after Jan. 1, 1923).

2. Likewise, Doyle’s publication of Sherlock Holmes literature after Jan. 1, 1923, does not make the entire story-line protected by copyright (Sherlock Holmes publications before 1923).

This case proves that public domain domain and the term of copyright are still important issues for authors, artists, musicians and other creative types. If you have any questions on this topic, feel free to ask.

Ari Good, JD LLM, a tax, aviation and entertainment lawyer, is the shareholder of Good Attorneys at Law, P.A. He graduated from the DePaul University College of Law in 1997 and obtained his L.L.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida.

Contact us toll free at (877) 771-1131 or by email to info@goodattorneysatlaw.com

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Kim Dotcom Criminal Copyright

Feds Release Details on Megaupload’s Kim Dotcom Criminal Copyright Case

A Deluge of Emails Shows Intent to Violate Criminal Copyright Law

In a test of the reach of American copyright law, the U.S. Department of Justice (U.S. DOJ) has released a 200 page summary of its criminal case against Kim Dotcom. The Feds claim that its documents prove Dotcom’s intent to violate criminal copyright law with his shuttered website, Megaupload. They also claim his criminal enterprise caused the American entertainment industry $500 million in lost profits. Now it’s up to New Zealand officias to decide whether the U.S. can extradite Dotcom to face these charges.

Who is Kim Dotcom?

Kim Dotcom Criminal Copyright
Dotcom showing off his wise investment strategy.

The eponymous Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz, was a notorious hacker in his native Germany. Police eventually arrested him in 1994 for trafficking in stolen phone cards, but he evaded serious punishment for what a judge called “youthful foolishness” (despite being 20 at the time of his arrest). He eventually moved on to Thailand to dodge charges of insider trading in the early 2000’s. Thailand authorities arrested him anyways and deported him back to Germany. Dotcom again managed to avoid a prison term and left for Hong Kong in 2003.

It was around this time that Dotcom set up Megaupload (among some more questionable investment activity). He generously called his file hosting and sharing website a “provider of cloud storage services” or cyberlocker. More dubious commentators would call it a internet piracy mecca. At one point, Megaupload was the 13th most popular site on the internet and claimed 4% of the world’s traffic.

The Feds’ Case for Criminal Copyright

In 2012, the U.S. DOJ indicted Dotcom in U.S. federal court on criminal charges ranging from Conspiracy to Commit Copyright Infringement to Racketeering. By that time Dotcom had become a resident of New Zealand. Briefly imprisoned there, Dotcom is now out on bail and hiding away in his New Zealand mansion.

Emails and Skype messages released by the U.S. DOJ appear to show Dotcom had less than honest intentions for Megaupload.

“I have a feeling that Kim tolerates a certain amount of copyright violation.”

But digging deeper into the U.S. DOJ’s summary, there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of direct admission by Dotcom of an intent to violate criminal copyright law. Rather, there is a lot of innuendo and circumstantial evidence. Dotcom forwarded emails to other corporate officers about piracy and Megaupload, complained of lost revenue when employees complied with DMCA requests, and was included in emails by other Megauplaod officials who made more direct admissions.

The U.S. DOJ’s other problem with this international caper, though, is Dotcom’s residence in New Zealand. They’ll have to wait until at least 2014 for judicial authorities there to decide whether the U.S. can extradite Dotcom.

Dotcom’s Defense to Criminal Copyright Charges

Dotcom appeared to have relied upon a distorted understanding of U.S. copyright law to justify his actions. Dotcom, in the U.S. DOJ’s release, repeatedly referred to DMCA takedown requests. This part of copyright law requires copyright holders to inform ISP’s of copyright infringing material before the ISP needs to remove that material. Of course, the infringing content providor must have had a good faith belief their actions were legal in the first place. Or that they were at least ignorant of its legality.

An extension of this defense theory is that Megaupload is simply a “cloud” storage platform. Prosecutors cannot hold Dotcom responsible if people use the site for online piracy. Not suprisingly, a host of witnesses, including the MPAA, RIAA, and BSA, are ready to go to court to dispute Dotcom’s story of benevolent intentions.

This story warrants further attention to see how far the reach of U.S. copyright law can extend.

Ari Good, JD LLM, a tax, aviation and entertainment lawyer, is the shareholder of Good Attorneys at Law, P.A. He graduated from the DePaul University College of Law in 1997 and obtained his L.L.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida.

Contact us toll free at (877) 771-1131 or by email to info@goodattorneysatlaw.com

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An Art Basel Update

IMG_2005An Art Basel Update – Simply Exceptional

So, Art Basel is in full swing here in Miami and Miami Beach and I have to say, it does not disappoint. I had the privilege of visiting the main Midtown exhibits:  art-miami, Context, the Miami Project and Spectrum yesterday and today.  It’s easy to see what the competition must have been like for the exhibiting galleries as the quality of the pieces is museum grade.  One of my favorite unifying themes was how contemporary artists have incorporated video into their work.  Video shots of people or animals merge with the physical media of the piece, allowing the artist to use motion and perspective in incredible ways.  The use of different perspectives, making the small larger the large small, depending on how it’s viewed, takes on a totally new dimension when you incorporate, for example, a video loop of a woman swimming in a “pool” the size of the painting, or a virtual hummingbird perched on a tangible nest under glass.

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb9aBgKTa0o&feature=youtu.be [/youtube]

 

These virtual beings even interact with each other, acting out responses to moving pieces on the wall.  It simply brought a smile to my face.  In my very amateurish opinion art-miami and its next door neighbor, Context, are the cream of the crop.  The structures are exceptional:  beautifully lit, spacious environments that allow plenty of room to move around, speak to the gallery owners and representatives, and simply get up close and personal with the work.  There are many places to eat, cocktail and mingle interspersed among the different exhibits in addition to the Midtown restaurants and bars turned sidewalk cafés, and the people are as much a part of the landscape as the art itself.  More than anything else I feel blessed to be in this environment and to be able to experience the best of other people’s ideas and hard work on such a grand and colorful scale.  This weekend:  the Miami Beach convention center and the world that surrounds it.

Art Basel Special Series: What’s On Those Billboards?

Billboards Around Miami: PULSE Miami, Red Dot Miami, and Miami Project

Art Basel Billboards
No, not this billboard.

Going around Miami lately, I’ve noticed many billboards promoting three art fairs during Art Basel time: PULSE Miami, Red Dot Miami, and the Miami Project. I decided to find out what they’re all about, and here’s the details.

PULSE Miami

PULSE Miami boasts that it’s the leading U.S. art fair dedicated exclusively to contemporary art. The 9th edition of this event, held annually in Miami and New York, is split into two sections: PULSE and IMPULSE (hey, that’s pulse with an -im!). The IMPULSE section features galleries hand picked by a committee of prominent international art dealers. These galleries put on a solo exhibition of an artist’s work created within the past two years. The PULSE section has dozens of galleries from across the globe displaying the work of established and pioneering artists. The PULSE section also has original programming that includes large-scale installations, a video lounge, and performance pieces. PULSE encourages visitor to participate and interact with the exhibits.

PULSE Miami is open Dec. 5-8 and located at the Ice Palace, 1400 N. Miami Ave., in the Media Entertainment District. PULSE will offer shuttle service between Art Basel Miami Beach, Art Miami, and the Ice Palace Studios. For more details, visit the PULSE website here.

Red Dot Miami

The Red Dot Art Fair is another established event situated in a plum location next to Art Miami. 60 galleries will converge to exhibit an eclectic assortment of photography, painting, sculpture, and other fine art works. Onlookers can see pieces from emerging through established artists, all under the shaded luxury of a 50,000 square ft. tent. Red Dot Miami will also support a community project: Million Trees Miami. The opening reception benefits this campaign to plant a million trees by 2020 to reach 30% tree canopy for Miami-Dade county.

Red Dot Miami is open Dec. 3-8 and located in Midtown Miami, 3011 NE 1st Ave. at NE 31st St., Wynwood Art District. For more details, visit the Red Dot website here.

Miami Project

The Miami Project is another Wynwood art fair, but it’s just in its 2nd year.. This one places emphasis on displaying high quality works in a visitor friendly environment. Works are located under a tent with airy cathedral ceilings, spacious aisles, and upscale lounges. The Miami Projects will line up historic avant garde pieces next to those of ambitious youthful artists. This allows visitors the unique experience of comparing and contrasting the development of contemporary art.

Miami Project is open Dec. 3-8 and located in Midtown Miami,located at NE 29th St. and NE 1st Ave., Wynwood Art District. For more details, visit the Miami Project website here.

Ari Good, JD LLM, a tax, aviation and entertainment lawyer, is the shareholder of Good Attorneys at Law, P.A. He graduated from the DePaul University College of Law in 1997 and obtained his L.L.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida.

Contact us toll free at (877) 771-1131 or by email to info@goodattorneysatlaw.com