Recently in Entertainment law Category

April 2, 2012

Law Office of Joseph Lamy Celebrating 3 Awesome Years!!

I am so grateful to all of my family, friends, past and future clients for helping to make my law practice such a success. Today marks 3 years since I opened my own doors in Providence and I can hardly believe it. I've been so fortunate to meet so many great people throughout Rhode Island and Massachusetts (and in the case of entertainment law, people all over the country!) and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to help with their legal needs.

The last year was the best yet with a record number of new clients and cases and some terrific results for my clients in personal injury, entertainment law and criminal defense. I am proud to describe just a few of the great results and projects that I was involved in over the past year alone:

In Personal Injury:

  • $150,000 for a fractured femur following an auto accident;
  • $100,000 for a fractured ankle (my client was previously unrepresented and the insurance company made a high offer of $20k... within 6 months of my taking the case and filing suit, the insurance company paid the policy limits of $100k);
  • $100,000 for nerve damage to client's elbow following an auto accident.

In Entertainment Law

  • Worked as lead counsel on two films, one on a micro budget of $20k and another with a mid-range budget of $350,000;
  • Lead counsel on a reality television show currently in production in Rhode Island;
  • Secured synchronization rights for one of my artists songs on a nationwide television commercial;
  • Negotiated and secured a four album recording deal with a major record label;
  • Negotiated and secured the film option for a novel written by a New York Times bestselling author.

In Criminal Defense

  • Full dismissal of multiple DUI cases;
  • Full dismissal of two felony assault cases - one before trial and one by jury verdict;
  • Reduced 2 counts of Third Degree Sexual Assault to misdemeanor simple assault on the morning trial was scheduled to begin (Client was facing ten years in prison and instead plead to one year of probation);

These are just some of the highlights to a great year! In addition to these cases I have successfully helped hundreds of other clients in the past year in all three areas of law. I am so grateful to past and current clients who continue to tell their friends and family about my office aiding in my growth and success. I can never thank you enough. Here's to another thirty successful years!!!

March 12, 2011

Have an Attorney Review Your Music Contracts

The cost of an attorney can be prohibitive for young musicians or bands starting out. I understand that in the early stages a band is so excited for an opportunity that they will sign whatever contract comes to them in hopes of making it big. I have also heard a lot of artists say that "the contract seems pretty straightforward." I ensure you that in the music industry nothing is "pretty straightforward". If it were not drafted in lengthy "lawyer speak" it would not take a 12 page contract to license one song from a band. Do not make the mistake of assuming that you understand every provision in the contract.

As an attorney who has reviewed hundred of recording, publishing, licensing, and management contracts, I must tell you that you absolutely must have an experienced entertainment lawyer review the contract. If you take your music and your band seriously, you can not afford to blindly enter into contracts that you do not understand. I have seen contracts that tie up the artist for several years without a chance to exit. I have seen contracts that grant the record company or manager power of attorney. I have also seen contracts that wrongfully take all the rights to music created and recorded by you. Furthermore, many of these contracts offer nothing in return. There is often no financial advance, no intellectual support, and no promise to promote the band or your music.

I can review most contracts and provide a detailed opinion letter as to its strengths and weaknesses for much less than you might expect. I will make it absolutely clear if it is a contract you need to avoid. In most cases, I will have the response to you within a week. It is an incredibly small price to pay for a service that may save your bands career and save you hundreds of thousands of dollars if the song becomes a hit.

Furthermore, I can review contracts for artists around the Country. While I am admitted to practice in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the language of music contracts is often universal and I can review a contract offered to an artist anywhere.

Continue reading "Have an Attorney Review Your Music Contracts" »

January 24, 2011

BMI Launches "BMI Live" to Help Collect Performance Royalties

Broadcast Music, Inc, better known as "BMI" and one of the two major music royalty collection agencies, has launched a new program, simply titled "BMI Live" to help collect performance royalties for performers at any stage in their career.

Artists who have an account with BMI and register their music with them will now be able to input their live performances online. Once logged in to your online account, performers will have to input the day, time, and location of the venue for the concert along with the setlist performed. BMI will collect royalties for the live performance and issue quarterly payments to the songwriters, performers, and publishers.

Since this is a new program, the obvious question is: How will performance royalty rates be calculated. Here is the answer from their website:

Rates per performance each quarter are determined by a combination of the number of performances reported during the payment period and the general licensing fees available for distribution for BMI Live performances. Since the number of BMI-licensed works, as well as the amount of the license fees collected by BMI, changes from quarter to quarter, the royalty rate for BMI Live works likewise will vary from quarter to quarter.

Additional answers to frequently asked questions can be found here. This is an exciting new program (even though I personally prefer ASCAP) and a program that is long overdue. I am intrigued to see how it works out, but I encourage all of my clients, especially those already registered with BMI, to take advantage of this new program.

If you are a band, solo musician, or songwriter seeking a music attorney to assist your career, please contact my office for a free consultation.

January 10, 2011

Music Producer Agreements - Before You Sign the Contract

Music producers are the unsung heroes of the music industry... the creative and talented force that transforms a group of musicians in studio into a platinum album. If you are a music producer, or an artist preparing to work with a music producer, here are a number of things that you need to know before entering into a recording or production contract.

At the most basic level, a music producer is paid per hour or a flat fee for studio time in which he or she records a bands music. At the highest level, a superstar producer writes beats, harmonies, contributes lyrics and is as well known as the artist singing. If you are paying a fee to a producer who contributes nothing to the music and is not looking for any payment more than his per hour, then this article is irrelevant. If you are that type of producer, or are working with that type of producer, enjoy your time together because the relationship ends when the recording is done.

But what about the well established producers who contribute to a song? Are they entitled to royalties? If so, how much? After all, more and more record labels are allowing producers to find and cultivate talent and then buying out the contracts or purchasing songs for publishing. This has allowed talented producers a great opportunity to hit it big. Do it right and protect yourself by having an experienced music lawyer draft and review your contracts.

There`s no better feeling than just going in and just working with someone and what comes out is something that the world knows about.

- Pharrell Williams

There are two ways for a high profile producer to be paid. A beat can be purchased for a flat fee, or a contract can be signed assigning producer points. Producer points generally range from 1 to 6 points. 1 point for generally unknown producers and 6 for superstar producers. The points are taken from the musicians royalty rate. For instance, if a musician has a recording contract with 15% royalties and signs a production agreement with 2 points, then the musician will get 13% royalties and the producer will receive 2% royalties. Producers are generally paid "record one" royalties, meaning that they are paid from the first sale and do not have to wait for the record label to recoup their investment before receiving royalties.

I get a half a mil' from my beats,
you get a couple gra-an-and
I'm a real producer and you just the piano man

- Timbaland

In many cases, the producer also collaborates on the composition. In these cases, the producer is entitled to more than the producer royalty. He or she is entitled to a percentage of the copyright and publishing royalties. If the producer is going to contribute music and/or lyrics to a project, his or her percentage is best agreed upon ahead of time, else it can become contentious once the song is completed.

As with anything in the music industry, contracts can get increasingly complicated. It is absolutely best to work with an experienced entertainment lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected.

September 6, 2010

Royalty Dispute Ends in Eminem's Favor and It Could Have a Huge Impact on the Recording Industry

A Federal Court in California has ruled in favor of Eminem, by stating that digital downloads from Itunes.com do not qualify as purchases, but are rather "licensed" by the "buyer". The import of this decision is that there is a dramatic difference between record sale royalties and license agreement royalties.

A recording contract generally pays royalties between 7% and 20% to an artist, depending on their popularity and ability to generate sales, for each album and/or single sold. The same recording contract might allow for 50% of royalties for the licensing of a song, such as to a TV show, commercial, or movie.

As a result of this ruling, artists such as Eminem, will now receive the much higher licensing royalty percentage than the lower record sales royalty. It could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for artists as popular as Eminem. Even for much smaller artists this is a major decision since Itunes is becoming the leader in music sales while CDs begin to disappear.

Rest assured, however, that record label attorneys are running to their keyboard to make appropriate amendments and soon recording contracts will have a special "licensing" provision for Itunes which brings the royalty down to the intended amount of royalty for record sales. Nevertheless, this decision is a boon to recording artists currently working on a contract who have no such provision.

Continue reading "Royalty Dispute Ends in Eminem's Favor and It Could Have a Huge Impact on the Recording Industry" »

August 16, 2010

Artists are you Considering a Manager? Here's What to Know About a Management Contract

A band manager hears a song on the internet or catches your act at a local club and approaches you promising recording contracts and headline performances in front of 15000 screaming fans... it's a seductive offer and you consider giving a percentage of your earnings to this person. Is it an offer you can't refuse or an offer you should run from?

I have reviewed countless management contracts and, interestingly, they all vary quite a bit. I am more than happy to review any management contract before you sign and I will give my fair unbiased opinion. In the meantime, here are a few important things to look for.

Obtain the manager's resume and credentials

This may seem obvious, but many artists fail to ask enough questions about a potential manager's background. Has he ever worked with a successful artist, or are you the guinea pig? Does he or she actually have effective contacts in the music industry? Is he or she familiar with your kind of music - this is essential because a highly successful hip-hop manager might be unable to do anything for a rock band if he has the wrong contacts and is unfamiliar with your genre. Is he or she making promises that can be kept?

Never, ever, ever, sign power of attorney

There is absolutely no reason to sign over power of attorney to a band manager. None. I recently read a contract offer for a very talented artist and the manager was requesting power of attorney over all contracts and bank accounts affiliated with the artist and her music. I can't say it enough - there is no reason to agree to this. Do not allow a manager to take over your career and make binding decisions with which you may disagree.

Let's Talk Money

This is probably the area which creates the most need for negotiation. What percentage is fair? Should he or she only take a percentage of work that they produce? Gross v. net? and so on...

Here are some considerations. The average percentage is 10-20% for a manager. At the higher end, the manager should have a great resume and be able to open very lucrative doors. Anything over 20%, is in my opinion excessive. It is also very helpful if you sign a contract in which the manager only receives a percentage profit on work that he or she creates. In other words, if the manager books a paying show, then he or she is entitled to profit. If you contact a venue directly or license your song to a video game entirely on your won without the effort of the manager, why should he or she profit?

Some managers will not take a percentage and instead will work for a fee. These agreements may be appropriate if you have every confidence that the manager can keep his promises. Otherwise, you may lose money on the deal.

In addition, always look to sign a contract where the manager takes a percentage of the net profits and not gross profits. The music industry can have a lot of overhead costs... equipment, road crews, merchandise manufacturing costs, recording time in the studio, etc. The manager should share in these costs by taking only a percentage of the net profits and not the gross profits.

So is it a Good Idea?

Absolutely, if it is the right manager with the right contract. There are hundreds of thousands of bands and artists who sound much like you across the Country and across the Globe. A good manager can open doors that would be otherwise impenetrable and might just be the key to success. That said, a manager should never be a hindrance or a step backward and that is why you have to do your homework.

If you are considering hiring a band manager, or have already been contacted by one, contact my office right away so that we can review the proposed agreement. A few hours with a lawyer by your side could save thousands of dollars in the future and might prevent a horrible contract.

Continue reading "Artists are you Considering a Manager? Here's What to Know About a Management Contract" »

August 5, 2010

Entertainment Lawyer Joseph Lamy may be Retained on Contingency Fee Basis

I speak with musicians and artists almost every day to try and help them along the path to rock and pop stardom, but the fact is that many up and coming artists are struggling to make it and, therefore, can not afford legal fees of an entertainment lawyer. I always keep my fees as low as possible to help people gain access to the legal help they need, but it is not always enough.

If you are a band, singer, or musician, on the brink of stardom, you should know that I can be retained on a contingency fee basis. You may be familiar with contingency fees in personal injury cases. The attorney will not paid or compensated until you are compensated. In the case of personal injury the compensation comes from a settlement or jury verdict, in the case of entertainment law, the compensation comes from advances on recording agreements, or other contractual payments. The percentage is lower than that typically used in personal injury cases. Under such an agreement, I will review all contracts, negotiate favorable terms, use my contacts to help further your career, and ensure that your best interest is protected.

If you have been offered a recording contract, production agreement, licensing agreement, or any other contract in the music industry, it is imperative that you have an entertainment attorney review any document before you sign. Just this morning I spent an hour speaking to a client who asked me to review a recording contract only to find that there were a number of problems and unjust provisions. No matter how badly you want to make it big, you absolutely can not blindly sign a contract. The music industry is extremely complex and record labels and producers are not looking out for your best interest. An experienced entertainment lawyer, such as myself, familiar with the complex language of the music industry is your best option.

It is also worth noting that the contract language surrounding the music industry is universal. Therefore, even though I am a licensed attorney in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, I can represent artists across the country. I have represented musicians from Denver, Salt Lake City, and California, in addition to many Rhode Island and Massachusetts acts.

Don't sign your dreams away and make a contractual mistake you'll live to regret. Contact my office right away for a free consultation. My efforts may cost you little to know money.

May 4, 2010

Black Eyed Peas Record Setting Download Confirms Music Industry is Forever Changed

The Black Eyed Peas insanely infectious song "I Gotta Feeling" has become the most downloaded song in history topping 5 and a half million legal downloads. I would venture to guess that the number of illegal downloads would bring the total number to well over ten million.

Itunes has also recently reported that it has sold ten billion downloads from its site. That lucky track belonged to Mr. Johnny Cash. These numbers, only a few years after MP3 became a household term, confirms that the music industry is forever changed. Think about it - 10 Billion downloads!

The Recording Industry Association of America would likely say that the internet has decimated the music industry due to piracy and illegal downloading of music. This is evidenced by the number of lawsuits against every day people who illegally downloaded a few songs off limewire or similar peer networks. I think it is preferable to say that the internet has reinvented the music industry. While big name performers and major record labels may feel their wallets tightening, artists and musicians across the globe can thank the internet for new opportunities that would never have been available before.

Social networking, Pandora.com, Myspace, Internet Radio, youtube, and sites like Itunes, offerring legal downloads allow anyone who has recorded a song or full length CD to become a professional artist. A savvy internet user can create buzz about their band and generate sales without the help of major record label or publishing companies. In fact, many well known artists are now publishing their own records and/or releasing albums solely online. With the right contacts and initiative, artists can also find commercial venues to license their music. No longer do artists have to wait and pray that a record label will somehow discover them and make them famous.

While it is easier to get one's music out to a larger audience, certain precautions still need to be made. It is imperative that you trademark your artist name, properly copyright your material (and I don't mean mailing a CD to yourself), and learn about music publishing and online distribution. If necessary, it is also helpful to have a band partnership agreement so that there are no disputes when the money starts rolling in or the lead guitarist decides to move to Vegas. When you've done all that - your may be off and running. Luckily, my office can help with all of this.

I have advised and represented many artists and I can help jumpstart your music career.

Continue reading "Black Eyed Peas Record Setting Download Confirms Music Industry is Forever Changed" »

March 28, 2010

BMI, ASCAP and now Soundexchange

I came across an important article in the Tennessean which pointed out the importance of registering with an organization that collects royalties for digital music, such as SoundExchange.com. With the emerging popularity of online radio and programs such as Pandora, it is absolutely imperative to have proper registration with a company entrusted to collect online royalties.

The difference between online play and traditional radio play, is that terrestrial radio is not required to pay royalties to musicians and artists who appear on a particular recording. Groups like BMI and ASCAP only collect and disperse royalties to copyright holders and publishers.

Recording artists sensing the dawn of a new musical venue were quick to ensure that they would be paid for online and digital play of their recordings. So while the bass player from a 1960's protest song may not have received royalties in twenty years, he may now find that the same song is now worth several thousand dollars in online royalties.

Many recording artists, however, have failed to register with SoundExchange.com and are potentially losing thousands of dollars. This particular article suggests that there is over $50 million dollars in unpaid royalties. Despite the best efforts of researchers and investigators it is often impossible to recover all the musicians who played a part on a particular track meaning their rightful royalty goes uncollected.

The Copyright Royalty Board has made SoundExchange the sole entity in the United States to collect and distribute digital performance royalties on behalf of featured recording artists, master rights owners (like record labels), and independent artists who record and own their masters.

Continue reading "BMI, ASCAP and now Soundexchange" »

February 10, 2010

American Idol's "Pants on the Ground" Singer Hires Attorney

General Larry Platt could never have imagined that when he auditioned for American Idol in Atlanta to sing a funny song of his own writing that he would create a phenomenon. Platt is the next in the long line of viral videos and entertainers to emerge from American Idol auditions...William Hung, anyone? The video of his performance, shown here, has already received several million views on youtube, spawned several re-mixes and found it's way into politics and the pop mainstream.

I'll admit that I laughed the first time that I heard the song. Today, it takes a step further into the world of entertainment law and that is where I become really interested. The song is being played everywhere and other artists are re-mixing it to their taste, yet General Platt has not received any money.

The song is not registered with the Copyright office. In fact, since the performance several people have attempted to copyright the song, but General Platt was not one of them. General Platt is keen to make sure that if anyone profits off of his song that it is him. He has hired an attorney to help protect his legal rights. General Platt will have to show that the work was an original and that he was the first to enter it into commerce. Luckily, given the popularity of American Idol, 50 million people can attest to the fact that General Platt was the first to introduce the song to the world.

The biggest challenge facing Platt will be to prove that the song was original. A pair of brothers from Detroit have already come forward stating that in 1996 they wrote a strikingly similar song called "Back pockets on the floor". The similarities between the two songs are obvious particularly concerning the lyrics, although, in my opinion, General Platt is the superior rapper. Unfortunately, for General Platt any royalties he might be able to secure might be lost to a copyright infringement suit from these two brothers.

General Platt has been asked to record a version of the song. Hopefully, he can receive royalties from this recording and make some money off of his effort before the song becomes a pop culture afterthought.

If anyone is considering singing original material on future seasons of American Idol, be absolutely sure to copyright the material first.

Finally, you have to give it to Simon - love him or hate he really can spot a hit maker. After the audition he says I have a terrible feeling that song is going to be a hit!

January 25, 2010

The Complex State of the Music Industry: Everyone Sue Everyone

The music industry continues to be a hotbed for litigation. It's penchant for controversy is sometimes staggering. What's happening just this week:

A court today reduced the "monstrous and shocking" (Judge Davis' words, not mine) $2 million dollar fine imposed on Jammie Thomas-Rasset for illegally downloading 24 songs on the internet. Now the mother of 4 will only have to come up with a mere $54,000.00 or $2250 per song. Ms. Thomas-Rasset, unable to pay anywhere near 50 thousand, plans to continue her appeal.

Universal Music Group has filed a lawsuit against the website grooveshark. Grooveshark already settled a similar lawsuit with EMI, but now face the wrath of Universal who claims that grooveshark is hosting illegal copies of their songs for the public to hear. Universal claims that grooveshark is paying nothing to provide online access to their songs.

And everyone's favorite target for plagiarism, Coldplay, is being targeted yet again. This time, a rocker named Sammie Lee Smith, is claiming that Coldplay have stolen no less than 3 songs from his catalog. It appears that Mr. Smith has a poorly imagined plan to sue any artist for copyright infringement. He has apparently recorded thousands of songs over the past few decades. Although, the overwhelming majority of these songs have never been released or heard by anyone other than himself, he is quick to point out if any melody or riff sounds like something in his vast catalog. Copyright infringement lawsuits are tough and I am skeptical about this one. Although, Satriani may be onto something with his lawsuit.

Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam fame, is also being sued over his cover of the Gordon Peterson song, "Hard Sun". Vedder had the legal license to cover the song which found itself on the Into the Wild soundtrack, but Peterson is claiming Vedder altered the lyrics to his song thereby "eroding the integrity of the composition."into_the_wild_movie_poster.jpg

December 21, 2009

Musicians Should Contact an Attorney Before Signing a Recording Contract

Many unknown bands and musicians are so thankful to have the chance at a recording contract that they sign whatever is handed to them without ever speaking to an attorney. I can tell you that this practice frequently leads to problems.

It is in your best interest to have an attorney review your contract
:


  • to advise and educate you as to your rights
  • to explain the obligations and duties of the record label
  • to ensure that you are being fairly compensated, and perhaps negotiate a better deal
  • to ensure that you are not improperly giving away the rights to your music

The results are never good when a contract does not work out as planned and numerous problems can occur:


  • pressures on the band may force you to quit
  • lost income from improperly negotiated royalties
  • tens of thousands of dollars spent in litigation either trying to get out of the contract or forcing the record label to comply with its obligations

It is much better to make a small investment in yourself and hire a lawyer before singing a contract rather than deal with the problems associated with the contracts failure. You work very hard every day in hopes of making it big - don't let a contractual mistake end those dreams.

Continue reading "Musicians Should Contact an Attorney Before Signing a Recording Contract" »

October 13, 2009

Michael Jackson's New Single "This is It" Shows Need for Artists to Protect Their Rights

The long arduous story of Michael Jackson's new single, "This is It", released on Sunday night, shows how complicated rights and ownership of music can become.

The story begins in 1983 when Paul Anka and Michael Jackson (then at the height of his stardom) co-wrote a song intended to appear on a duets album that Paul was recording.  Shortly after the song was completed, MJ pulled away from the project and took the recordings. 

In 1991, R&B singer Safire recorded a version of the song titled, "I Never Heard."  That recording gave writing credits to both MJ and Paul Anka.  On Sunday, almost twenty years after "I Never Heard", the Jackson estate released "This is It."  Many people in the music industry immediately recognized the similarities between the two songs.  The problem was that Paul Anka did not receive a writing credit for "This is It."

Prepared to take the case to court, Paul Anka and the Jackson estate have agreed to terms and Paul Anka has now received his deserved writing credit.

This song shows the need for song writers and collaborators to protect their rights.  This song took several variations over three decades and nearly led to a lawsuit.  I wonder if the this would have settled so easily had the co-writer been an unknown artist without a legal team behind him or her,  as opposed to a legend like Paul Anka.
October 2, 2009

Musicians - Obtain a Mechanical License to Legally Use Other's Material

I am often asked: Can I legally record and distribute a cover song? And if so, how?

The answer is a mechanical license.  These licenses are paid and distributed to the artists who own the intellectual property that you are covering.  This is the only legal way to record and distribute material that is owned by another artist or musician.  So, if your band is planning on covering the The Clash for your demo or CD, be sure that you are not setting yourself up for a lawsuit.

Many retailers, both in store and on-line, will refuse to carry music if they believe the necessary licenses are missing.  This is because they open themselves up to a lawsuit for selling bootlegged music.  The license fees are relatively low and well worth the expense to avoid a lawsuit.

My office can help you obtain the necessary licenses so that you can sell your music with confidence and get your independent CD into the stores.   Call for a free consultation today.
September 11, 2009

No One is Free From the Ire of the Recording Industry

Today it appears that the Ellen DeGeneres Show is going to be sued for illegally broadcasting music.  It appears that those quirky trademark dances that Ellen performs which some people, not including this author, find funny, have been performed over music that was not properly licensed.  That's right - a national television show broadcast to millions apparently forgot to obtain licenses and permission to broadcast music. 


When asked why they did not obtain the proper licenses, one of the show's producers allegedly replied we don't "roll that way."  That at least is kind of funny.  Ellen herself was not listed as a defendant in the suit.