Entertainment FAQ

This set of Entertainment Law FAQ is provided as a service to our clients and friends. While the information provided in this publication is believed to be accurate, it is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.  Please consult with a competent professional before relying on any written commentary.  The Material herein is not written to solicit any engagements where to do so might offend or violate the professional standards of any other state, country or bar.

1.  In the world of entertainment, what are some of the biggest mistakes a talent can make in a personal services agreement?

(a)  Agree to take all his compensation on a contingent basis or on the "back-end";
(b)  Blindly sign a contract with vague language about the term, territory, media and exclusivity provisions of the agreement;
(c)  Leaving the term or duration of the contact open ended.


2.  On the topic of Internet distribution, what is the Internet right sometimes referred to as "Netcasting"?

Netcasting is generally defined as the right to distribute a motion picture via streaming media over the Internet.  The distributor transmits the motion picture over the Internet to be viewed on a computer monitor, instead of distributing through the sale of cassettes.  It's similar to broadcasting, but instead of signals being broadcast over the air, the Internet is the actual means of transmission.


3.  If a film producer wants to use a copyrighted song in his next feature film, what licenses must he obtain for use of the song?

The producer will need a synchronization license ("synch license"), a performing rights license, and possibly a sound recording license.


4.  What rights are licensed to a filmmaker with a synch license?

Depending on who holds the rights, either the publishing company or the record company can give the filmmaker the right to synchronize the music with a film or video production.  The filmmaker literally records the music onto the film or tape.  This license does not permit the recording of a song directly from a DVD, CD, tape, record or other media.


5.  What rights are licensed to a filmmaker with a performing rights license?

The performing rights license allows the filmmaker to show or perform the film/video to the public with the recorded music.  This license is required whether the film is exhibited by the filmmaker, a theater, video distributor or other distribution outlet.  There are two varieties of performing rights: grand performing rights and small performing rights.  The grand performing rights cover dramatic performances such as a movie based on a song, or a scene in the movie that matches the music.  Small performing rights are acquired to use the music as background sound.  Performing rights societies, like ASCAP and BMI, have obtained small performing rights licenses for thousands of songs.


6.  When must a filmmaker acquire a sound recording license?

If a filmmaker plans to record a song directly from a prerecorded medium, such as a DVD, CD or tape, and use it in a film, then he must obtain a sound recording license in addition to the synch and performing rights licenses.


Copyright 2009 The Fjordbak Law Firm