Category: Entertainment

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

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

Image by sam_churchill

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.

Special Series: 5 Pointz to Art Basel

A Federal Judge Has Ruled That The 5 Pointz “Graffiti Mecca” Must Come Down

In a blow to an emerging art form, Judge Frederic Block will rule that property owners can tear down the “5 Pointz.”  Artists had banded together to prevent the demolition, but Block decided that they lacked any right to stop the bulldozers. The area will soon be razed to create room for luxury, high rise apartments.

5 Pointz: From an Abandoned Building to International Art Scene.

5 Pointz graffiti art
5 Pointz: A morality tale?

For the past two decades, owners Jerry and David Wolkoff have let graffiti artists from around the world use their 200,000 square foot factory building in Long Island as a canvas. The 5 Pointz name for the five-story, block long industrial complex represents the coming together of New York’s five boroughs. The space, however, has outgrown these local roots and evolved into a haven for a burgeoning, international art community. Hip hop, pop and R&B stars, including Doug E. Fresh, Mobb Deep, DJ-JS1, Joan Jett, and Joss Stone, have come to admire its beauty.

More than just a space for artists to ply their trade, musicians, DJ’s, emcees and brake dancers regularly perform at the site. It’s become a flash point for hip hop culture. Filmmakers and photographers document the art works, and tour buses come to soak in the vibrant displays. A volunteer, Jonathan “Meres One” Cohen, has even created a 5 Pointz museum.

Competing Claims of Value

The beginning of the end for 5 Pointz started when a stairwell collapsed in 2009 and caused serious injuries to an artist. City officials investigated and cited the Wolkoffs for code violations, after which they decided to explore options for selling the property. Artists tried negotiating without success to purchase the property, but the Wolkoffs moved ahead with demolition plans. Artists fought back with a lawsuit under the little known Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA).

VARA endows creators with certain “moral” rights to their works.  Moral rights stay with the artist and allow the artists some control over the uses to which their work is put.  Say for example an artist sells a photograph, including the rights to use, sell or reproduce the photograph. The buyer, however, decides to use the photograph in a controversial exhibition insulting religious beliefs.  A country that recognizes true moral rights might give the photographer some recourse against the buyer, even though he sold the economic (i.e. copyright) rights to that buyer.

Some European countries (and Canada) recognize moral rights in much the same manner as they recognize an artist’s economic (copyright) interest in his work.  This is narrower in the U.S., however, which treats moral rights as a separate interest and not part of the traditional rights and remedies under copyright law.  VARA endows creators with the following rights, but only for a narrow class of visual art:

  • The right to claim authorship for their creations (“hey, I did this”)
  • The right to prevent others from attaching the author’s name to works he/she didn’t create (“but I didn’t do that”)
  • The right to prevent others from attaching the author’s name to works that others have alerted or mutilated if that would damage the author’s honor or reputation (“I didn’t do that, and I certainly wouldn’t”)
  • The right to prevent alteration or mutilation to an author’s work that would damage his/her honor reputation (“you can’t make spaghetti of my art”)

If you own the right to protect your work’s “morality,” its dignity or author’s reputation, it’s possible to prevent the destruction of works even when others physically own or have the copyright to it. This is the argument the 5 Pointz artists presented Judge Block. They sought to prove the inherent value of the 5 Pointz art to the community.  Art expert Daniel Simmons examined work by graffiti artist Lady Pink and an awe-inspiring mural of a sleeping woman with headscarf by Chilean artists Dasic Fernandez. In the end, Judge Block recognized “street art” as such, citing Banksy as notable example, but ultimately concluded that VARA protection did not extend to “aerosol works.”

“I’m getting the sense that the traditional academic way of looking at things needs to be updated,” Block said.

From 5 Pointz to Art Basel’s Pubic Art Displays

The 5 Pointz story is fascinating, and it got me thinking about how street art compares with the works that will be on display this year at Art Basel Miami.  The essence of the art is that it shares a space with others who interact with it.  Part of a mural’s beauty is in one’s ability to enjoy it just by walking by.  No gallery, no appointment, no price or admission, just a form of communication between artists and art lover.  Sometimes, however, the canvas – a building in many cases – belongs to others.  It will be interesting to see how courts strike a balance between private property rights and the interests of the public in this type of art form, and whether the U.S. moves towards broader recognition of “moral” rights in art.

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

Image by Forsaken Fotos

And you?  What do you think?  Should the building owner in 5 Pointz be able to raze the building without any recognition of what it became?  Did the artists assume that risk?  I would value your opinion.

Special Series: The International Art Community’s Annual Winter Bash, Art Basel in Miami

An (Unofficial) Art Basel Visitor Guide

After relocating to Miami this past summer, I’m looking forward to exploring a one of a kind art exhibition in Miami and the sandy white shores of South Beach: Art Basel. Actually, one of a kind is a bit of misnomer. Organizers also host annual Art Basel shindigs in its namesake city, Basel, (a European city on the border between Switzerland, France, and Germany) and Hong Kong at different times of the year. Art Basel/Miami Beach 2013 is the 12th edition of this art gala and has grown up into a sprawling maze of eye candy for connoisseurs of the visual arts and the curious.

What is Art Basel?

Art Basel traces its beginnings to three visionary art gallery owners in 1970. They created an event for artists and galleries alike to exhibit contemporary and avant-garde pieces from around the world. Throughout the years, the Art Basel production has grown from 90 involved galleries, 30 publishers of art from 10 countries, and 16,300 visitors to its present size across three cities. 50,000 visitors alone came to Art Basel/Miami Beach alone last year.

A truly international event, Art Basel 2013 will showcase contemporary art from across the globe. Art galleries from North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa are coming to town and have historical works from masters of Modern art and newly minted pieces by emerging stars in tow. Painting, sculptures, drawings, installations, photographs, films, and edited works of great quality are on the menu. Live performances and music are planned as well to create a fully immersive experience.

Things to See and Do At Art Basel

Art Basel Miami at Convention Center
Soon to be chock full ‘o contemporary art

The invitation only events begin December 4, 2013, and opens to the public from Thursday, December 5 through Sunday, December 8. Doors open, figuratively speaking, at noon each day and close at 8pm (6pm on Sunday).

The main event will take place at the Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) and will be divided into eight different areas:

  • Galleries – Art works from undiscovered artists through museum quality pieces.
  • Nova – Individual galleries showcase new works from the past 3 years from 1-3, hand selected artists from around the world.
  • Positions – A single artist presents one major project.
  • Edition – Special presentations of editioned works, prints, and multiples (think Andy Warhol) by renowned artists
  • Kabinett – Curated exhibitions of art that have their own space to showcase specific themes.
  • Public – Outdoor sculptures, interventions, and live performances. No ticket required!
  • Film – Films by and about artists.
  • Magazines – Art publications from around the world.

Public artworks are located at nearby Collins Park and nearby beaches. Video works will be presented inside the MBCC and also in the outdoor setting of SoundScape Park.

Art Basel will also organize three different series for visitors to go beyond just viewing artworks.

  • Conversations – Morning discussions by prominent members of the international art world.
  • Salon – Short presentations that include artist talks, panels, lectures, and performances with the artists, academics, curators, collectors, architects, art lawyers, critics, and others.
  • Video Archive – Videos of archived “Conversations” from Art Basels in years past.

Art Basel will be offering more specific details, including a show guide and floor plan when they become available. You can that information here.

Art Basel Creates a Synergy in Miami

The Beach doesn’t get to claim the entire event. There will be “satellite” art fairs going on before, during, and after Art Basel citywide. A large part of it will be take place across the causeways in Midtown and the Wynwood Arts Districts of Miami. Three large structures in Midtown will be home to the works of contemporary artists from all over the world, further cementing this area’s place as the go-to arts center of the city.

Here are some of the satellite art fairs that have got my attention:

  • New Material Art Fair – This 1st edition fair features experimental works that push the boundaries of traditional contemporary art. Eva Hotel, December 5-8.
  • Brazil Art Fair – A showcase of art works from Brazilian galleries. Midtown, December 4-8.
  • Interactive Art Fair – A fair that focuses on immersing the onlooker with the artworks. 1035 N Miami Ave, December 3-8.

 

Just getting to all the shows could become a full time job!

Certainly these events show Miami as a hub for artistic expression, visual and otherwise. AB/MB also brings light that there is more to the art scene than just creating. It is about the experience.

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 received his LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida.

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