In 2011, flux in music production, marketing and distribution will need to be addressed through new approaches to both the industry and the laws that govern it.
The ever-evolving media landscape is creating new challenges and opportunities for our business, and new legal issues will arise along with them.
Here are a few key trends that lawyers and the industry will need to address in the coming year:
Consumers Will Care More About the Legalese—Digital services have enabled individual users to evolve into a new class of semi-professional content producers. As these users post works to online and mobile platforms, they will start to care more about how their content is used, licensed and monetized, and the “legalese” in those platform’s terms of service will become increasingly important to them. Does the service, or the user, own the uploaded content? Even casual users will start to think more about who controls their profile and postings, and how can that information be used by content owners and marketers.
Licensing Systems Will Evolve— Artists and consumers today have the power to use, edit and sample from a virtually unlimited body of work. Pre-set deals are already in place for artists who want to record cover versions of songs without individually negotiating the rights, but artistic and technological practice has outpaced the law and the industry when it comes to easily licensing and monetizing more complex user-generated work like remixes and mash-ups. Traditionally, licenses for samples and derivative works all have had to be individually negotiated and documented. Artists with limited legal resources can sample from hundreds of sources for a single track, but as a practical matter they cannot arrange to enter into individual deals for each of them. To generate revenues from these activities, content owners will have to cede some control and systematize the deals, so that databases of content are available at the click of a mouse. Deal structures exist, or can be established, to enable this. Those that adopt first are likely to reap the largest rewards.
Wired Doesn’t Mean Disconnected From the Local—Artist development increasingly will be enhanced by online promotions and social, location-based services. The idea of local is making a big splash (as demonstrated by Groupon, Scoutmob and Foursquare) promoting a variety of products and services. As consumers spend increasingly more time on the network, they don’t have to become disconnected from the local and from the physical, and similar dynamics can and will be applied to help people discover and gather around artists playing in their vicinity. With increased use of promotions, contests and privacy-defying GPS will come legal issues not previously confronted by the entertainment counselor.
Celebrities Will Face Greater Challenges Controlling Their Images—Facebook, Twitter and YouTube present unprecedented opportunities for exposure, but they also create new challenges to privacy and maintaining control of a celebrity’s public image–whether it be mobile phone photos taken at inopportune moments, or malicious social postings such as those in Courtney Love’s litigation involving the first allegations of defamatory tweeting. The ability to establish, or destroy, a celebrity’s profile will keep expanding, and the legal rights involved will need to keep evolving.
Legal Knowledge Needs to be Shared—As artists go the DIY route or hire teams of advisors, they take on many roles traditionally handled for them by record label staffs, including their law departments. They will need access to the skill set and background to handle technology and content licensing, worldwide accounting and collection issues, data collection, etc. Managers and artists will need to tap into expertise on these legal issues and others, as the need for such specialized knowledge becomes more widespread.
The International Association of Entertainment Lawyers programs at MIDEM will focus on these issues and more, addressing new developments in entertainment and technology law, with topics ranging from live entertainment in the digital age to licensing, celebrity and digital rights.
If you still have questions, for the first time the IAEL is conducting the Legal Clinic, at which MIDEM participants can engage in one-on-one sessions with IAEL experts in different legal specialty areas and from various regions of the world.
Jeff Liebenson of Liebenson Law in New York City is President of the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers. The schedule of the IAEL’s sessions at Midem can be found here:http://www.iael.org/news/38