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Entertainment law

Entertainment law—sometimes known as media law—is a broad topic that includes traditional areas of law when applied to the entertainment industry. As with most industries, these traditional areas of law have unique applications in the entertainment industry.

Some of the areas of law that are often relevant to the entertainment industry and form a part of what is loosely known as entertainment law include contract law; intellectual property law (copyright law, trademark law, trade secret law, right of publicity, licensing law); First Amendment law (content regulation, obscenity, and censorship); privacy law; employment law; labor law; agency law; defamation law; tax law; immigration law; securities law; and civil litigation.

And when people in the entertainment industry have personal legal issues related to criminal law, family law (prenuptial agreements, divorce, child custody, child support), and personal injury law, for example, the related publicity may present additional challenges.

In Texas, entertainment law encompasses various legal disciplines as they apply to the entertainment industry. Contract law is central, governing agreements between artists, producers, and distributors. Intellectual property law is crucial for protecting creative works, including copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. The right of publicity and licensing are also significant, allowing individuals to control the commercial use of their name and image. First Amendment rights are pertinent to content creation and distribution, addressing issues of free speech, obscenity, and censorship. Privacy laws protect against the unauthorized use of personal information. Employment and labor laws regulate industry relationships, including those with agents and unions. Defamation law is relevant for protecting reputations against false statements. Tax, immigration, and securities laws impact financial and operational aspects of entertainment projects. Additionally, personal legal issues such as criminal charges, family law matters, and personal injury can become complex when public figures are involved, due to the potential for heightened media scrutiny. Texas attorneys specializing in entertainment law must navigate these areas, tailoring their legal strategies to the unique context of the entertainment industry.

Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.
Copyright law is central to protecting the creative works of individuals and companies within the entertainment industry.

The Copyright Act provides exclusive rights to creators of original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, and certain other intellectual works. This law allows creators to control how their works are used, distributed, and displayed. It also outlines provisions for fair use, copyright registration, and the enforcement of copyright infringement.

Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq.
Trademark law under the Lanham Act is relevant to the entertainment industry for the protection of brand names, logos, and other identifiers.

The Lanham Act governs trademarks, service marks, and unfair competition. It provides protection for brand names, slogans, and logos used in commerce to identify and distinguish goods or services. The Act allows for registration of trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and provides legal recourse for trademark infringement, dilution, and false advertising.

National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.
Labor law, particularly the NLRA, is relevant to the entertainment industry as it governs the relationship between unions, employees, and employers.

The NLRA protects the rights of employees and employers, encourages collective bargaining, and curtails certain private sector labor and management practices that can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses, and the U.S. economy. It is particularly relevant in the entertainment industry where many workers are unionized.

Defamation Law, codified in various state statutes and common law
Defamation law is relevant to the entertainment industry due to the high-profile nature of many individuals in the field and the potential for reputational harm.

Defamation law, which includes libel and slander, is primarily governed by state law but is influenced by federal First Amendment jurisprudence. It involves false statements made about an individual that cause harm to their reputation. Public figures in the entertainment industry, including celebrities, have a higher burden of proof, often needing to demonstrate actual malice.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.
Employment law, including the FMLA, is relevant to the entertainment industry as it addresses employee rights to leave for family and medical reasons.

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. This can be particularly relevant for entertainers and industry workers who have demanding schedules and need to balance work with personal or family health issues.

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq.
Immigration law under the INA is relevant to the entertainment industry due to the international nature of talent and production.

The INA provides the foundation for U.S. immigration law, including provisions for non-immigrant visas such as the O-1 visa for individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. This allows foreign nationals with exceptional talent to work legally in the United States in the entertainment industry.

Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. § 77a et seq.
Securities law is relevant to the entertainment industry for the financing of productions through investments.

The Securities Act regulates the offer and sale of securities to protect investors from fraud. It requires that investors receive financial and other significant information concerning securities being offered for public sale, and it prohibits deceit, misrepresentations, and other fraud in the sale of securities. This is relevant for entertainment projects that are often financed through the sale of securities to investors.

Understanding Collegiate Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) Rules
In June 2021 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) changed its long-standing rules prohibiting student-athletes from profiting from their name, image, and likeness (NIL).