Entertainment contracts are very similar to employment agreements in several ways. However, there are a lot of key differences when compared to a regular employment agreement. When you are an actor, musician, model, or other type of creative professional full-time, there can be more on the line when you execute these agreements. Your image and likeness are your stock-in-trade.
From the start of your career, any contract you sign can have long-term consequences. You may be eager to get a “big break” or feel like you are being presented with a great opportunity. For this reason, you may be hesitant to try and negotiate the terms of these agreements. However, this is the wrong mentality to have. Terms of agreements are always negotiable. Even if you don’t have a ton of bargaining power, it is always best to consult with an entertainment law attorney to see how you may be able to improve and negotiate terms in these agreements.
Whether it is music, modeling, photography, or acting, you should consult with an attorney specializing in entertainment law. There are several concerning clauses that are frequently put into entertainment contracts that you should watch out for. For example, some agreements that you may sign (or your manager may sign on your behalf) may release the rights to your image and likeness indefinitely, or “in perpetuity.” In perpetuity basically means: FOREVER. If you are an up-and-coming model or other creative professional, the last thing you want is a contract you signed years ago or a photo shoot you posed for coming back to “bite” you.
Emily Ratajkowski and Dave Chapelle learned this the hard way. Several articles have been written about Emily’s experience, and the model wrote an article of her own. An intimate photo shoot that she posed for when she first began modeling has been used by a photographer several times over to enrich himself while offering her none of the proceeds. Although she objects to this use, this photographer owns the rights to the images and her (likely former) manager signed away any rights she may have had.
Dave Chapelle discourages his fans from watching any of the Chapelle Shows from decades ago. These shows were extremely popular when they first came out, and Netflix was streaming the shows in recent years. Dave talks openly about how Comedy Central took advantage of him when he was a young comedian. He admits that he did not understand the ramifications of the agreement(s) he signed when he created the shows for Comedy Central. Comedy Central has made huge profits on his original works while he, unfortunately, has little to show for it.
Don’t let this happen to you. You may not ever be as famous as Dave Chapelle or Emily Ratajkowski. You may become more famous! Regardless, it is still wise to speak with an entertainment law attorney whenever you sign an entertainment contract. Jen Atkin, a celebrity hairstylist, and entrepreneur said it best when she was interviewed by Lauryn Bosstick on the Skinny Confidential podcast. One of her first suggestions for young creatives and entrepreneurs was to get a good lawyer in the early days of signing contracts, even if you feel like you can’t afford to. It is an investment that will pay dividends later on. Attorney Melody Rissell Leonard is an experienced entertainment law attorney in San Francisco, call her at 415-874-7288 or book an appointment here.
201 Spear Street Suite 1100
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 874-7288 | (714) 881-5988