The Attorney’s Role in Representing Talent in the Entertainment Industry

Attorneys routinely represent clients in the entertainment industry in contract negotiations, litigation and other matters. Many artists rely on attorneys to represent them in business issues, especially well-known talent who are inundated with offers from many sources due to established careers. For example, in these situations, attorneys sometimes help artists negotiate terms of a contract to obtain a percentage of the profits as part of the deal.

What Type of Artists Need Representation?

Actors (television, film, theater); Recording artists; Musicians; Dancers; Directors; Writers; and Producers.

Some of the Potential Issues

Copyright and trademark infringement; Branding; Contract drafting and negotiations; Breach of contract disputes; Merchandising and Licensing; Right of Publicity/ Right of Privacy issues; Underpayment of royalties; Syndication; Guild/Union contract disputes and arbitration; Collaboration agreements; Option agreements; Non-compete agreements; Sale of Rights; and Digital Millennium Copyright Act issues.

Also, an attorney can act as a “quasi-manager,” who assists in non-legal career making decisions, working closely with an artist’s agent or manager. In most cases, agents or managers have more knowledge of casting calls and established relations with casting directors, production companies or producers but attorneys can perform related services.

Talent agents and managers help with submitting talent to casting calls and also provide advice on the development of an artist’s career. Most jurisdictions require an agent to have a license. A manager can either be a personal manager (handling many aspects of an artist’s career) or a business manager (focusing on the financial aspect of an artist’s career). The agent or manager most likely deals with the personal affairs of an artist rather than the attorney, but with popular or “name talent,” an attorney may become more involved.

Also, an attorney can work closely with any labor union involved with regard to the terms of employment and the working conditions of the project. This entails collective bargaining agreements, arbitration clauses as well as litigation.

One important matter involved in representing talent is protecting the intellectual property rights of an artist. This can include publicity rights, copyright, trademark and even privacy issues. With the wide variety of multi-media in the 21st century — including social media — protecting the intellectual property rights of an artist is a continuous legal task.

Further, an attorney can counsel talent who also want to be involved in the production of the project. This might include how to set up a business, including a corporation, joint venture, limited and general partnership, limited liability company, “loanout” company, or other business formats.


Note: Attorneys are bound by a code of professional responsibility. There may be limits on what an attorney can do for talent such as soliciting material for roles. Also, an attorney would only be able to represent multiple parties in a single project with signed waivers and by advising the parties to obtain independent counsel. In any event, attorneys can make a talent aware of industry standards, provide additional knowledge, negotiate deals and help with development of a career.

If you are talent in the entertainment industry who needs the services of an attorney, you may have to enter into a retainer agreement. Speak with your attorney about how you can receive help with your career.