Monday, April 23, 2012

Protecting the Artist/Filmmaker/Musician’s Rights

You’ve worked a long time to create something special – whether it’s a song, a poem, a novel, a screenplay, a film, a photograph, a painting, a couture design for your future show at Bryant Park, or some other artistic work. A whole bundle of legal rights protects your time and investment, ranging from copyright and patents to distribution and recording rights. Don’t forget that you need to protect those rights during your lifetime in the event of future incapacity or after death. First, be aware of which rights you have retained, and which you may have bargained away. For example, ownership or control over the “master” of a particular recording session is often legally separate from the right to use and publicize one’s name, image and likeness. In an age where online videos, t-shirts, hats and other cross-promotions can generate more revenue that royalties from a single song, you need to be aware of these important property rights. And your heirs may be able to register their rights (via Chapter 26 of the Texas Property Code) to control and license your image and life story for up to 50 years. Second, you need to carefully review the language of any contracts – and always get these agreements in writing – so that you can properly negotiate over the entire bundle of intellectual property rights. Consider this: if George Lucas had overlooked the value of “image” merchandising when he negotiated his contract for the original Star Wars movie, he probably would not be the wealthy man that he is today. Finally, when you prepare a will (and yes, you most definitely should have a will) and other health-care planning documents, make sure that you hire an attorney and provide them with a copy of all contracts. Most of the rights in artistic works are considered “intangible property,” and you do not want them to fall into the wrong category for division among your heirs. Careful drafting will help ensure that your loved ones receive the bounty of your hard work once you are gone. Article by Cynthia W. Veidt, Attorney