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Among the countless casualties of COVID-19, many much-anticipated events had to be canceled. Instead, some of the world’s largest entertainment industry events are becoming virtual experiences.

Comic Con, which boasts over 135,000 annual attendees, announced that its in-person convention will be replaced in 2020 by a virtual experience. Lollapalooza, an annual music festival in Chicago, will also be virtual this summer. Even the venerable Cannes Film Festival has moved online.

These virtual formats pose new legal challenges, however, including cybersecurity threats, consumer privacy policies, and music licensing.
Continue Reading Virtual Events Raise Real World Legal Issues

One of the key elements in the White Paper from the Industry-wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force is the agreement among producers and unions to have an “autonomous” COVID-19 Compliance Officer for each production. The Compliance Officer will not be above-the-line talent, but will nonetheless play a starring role.

The White Paper defines the role of the Compliance Officer as an autonomous designee whose principal responsibilities will include overseeing and monitoring physical distancing, symptom monitoring and testing, disinfecting protocols, and PPE education, protocols, and adherence on set. Officers will be accessible at all times during work hours and will undergo specialized training on health and safety precautions, policies and procedures related to infection prevention, surface disinfection, and the use of PPE. Given the volume of federal, state, local, and now industry-specific pandemic safety laws and guidelines, coupled with the unique demands of Hollywood productions, the training is expected to be rigorous and time-consuming. 
Continue Reading As the Entertainment Industry Gets Back to Business, COVID-19 Compliance Officers to Have a Starring Role

On June 5, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released statewide guidance for music, film, and television production to restart.  This guidance is the latest development in the reopening of the entertainment industry in California as the state continues to advance through its roadmap for reopening, following the submission to Governor Newsom on June 3 of a white paper with recommendations on this topic from representatives of producers and the unions of the motion picture and television industries (White Paper).

In this new guidance, the CDPH recommends that music, TV, and film production resume no sooner than June 12 and abide by safety protocols agreed upon by labor and management, which may be further enhanced by county public health officers.  The CDPH also recommends that back-office staff and management adhere to the office workspace guidelines published by the CDPH and the California Department of Industrial Relations.


Continue Reading California Allows Production to Resume June 12, Subject to County Rules

On June 1, the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force (Task Force), composed of representatives of producers and the unions of the motion picture and television industries, submitted to the governors of California and New York a white paper proposing guidelines for the resumption of motion picture, television, and streaming production (White Paper). The White Paper presents the consensus of the Task Force regarding the circumstances under which content production can safely resume, with an emphasis on regular testing, sanitation, physical distancing, and education and training. The White Paper also addresses unique production-specific concerns, such as preventing infections from equipment that is commonly shared and not feasibly disinfected (e.g., lighting / electrical cables and certain props, costumes, accessories, wigs, and other specialty items), and special guidelines for casts that include minors or animals.
Continue Reading Industry Task Force Proposes Guidelines to Restart Production in California and New York

Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom raised some eyebrows when he announced that state government officials anticipated publishing guidelines for the reopening of Hollywood production facilities by Memorial Day. The Governor’s announcement took many in the industry by surprise, given that producers and unions continue to wrestle with the legal obligations and operational complexities involved in safely reopening film and television productions with the ever-present threat of COVID-19. Faced with this monumental task and the fluid nature of the pandemic, most production houses do not anticipate any return to work before July 1. Regardless of the precise timing of Hollywood’s return to work, the various union collective bargaining agreements (Basic Agreements) are clear that producers and unions will share responsibility for ensuring a safe and healthy workplace for industry employees. Given the outsized roles that the Hollywood Guilds play in shaping industry employment policy, strategic labor relations will be key to the success or failure of producers’ reopening plans.
Continue Reading Back to Business: Hollywood Producers Navigate the Choppy Waters of Reopening Plans and Labor Relations

On January 28, 2020, Paul Bernstein and Carly Trainor published “Inspiration to Infringement: Copyright Issues in Scripted Entertainment Inspired by Song Lyrics” in Music Connection Magazine. The following is an excerpt:

MGM Television is developing Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, a television series based on the lyrics of Billy Joel’s hits. This is the

Individuals in the entertainment industry have started coming forward to reveal harassment they have faced throughout their careers. In response to these revelations, filmmakers and showrunners have started depicting such harassment on screen. For example, the web television series The Morning Show explores the backlash that a network faces after a popular anchor on its news and morning talk show program is involved in a sexual misconduct scandal. While fictional, The Morning Show mirrors real-life occurrences. To tell such stories as accurately as possible, filmmakers and showrunners continue to seek firsthand accounts from the individuals involved in these real-life scandals. The problem: many of these individuals signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) as part of a settlement.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

NDAs are descriptively named—an NDA is an agreement not to disclose certain information. In the settlement context, one party usually pays the other to stay silent, and many NDAs include a “liquidated damages” provision, which sets monetary consequences of improper disclosure of the applicable information. Despite having signed NDAs, many of the individuals who choose to share their stories do so knowing their disclosures could subject them to significant financial costs.


Continue Reading The Cost of Breaching a Non-Disclosure Agreement

The NCAA has traditionally restricted college athletes from accepting any endorsements or compensation related to their participation in college sports. But less than a month after California enacted the Fair Pay to Play Act, which will prohibit the NCAA from preventing college athletes in the state from profiting off their commercial identities starting in 2023, the NCAA’s board voted unanimously to allow students across the country to benefit from the use of their “names, images, or likenesses.”

Name, Image, and Likeness

The right to profit from the commercial use of one’s name, image, and likeness, referred to as the right of publicity, prevents others from exploiting one’s identity without consent. Arguably, the NCAA’s previous policies interfered with athletes’ rights of publicity—while the NCAA and its member schools profited from college athletes’ names, images, and likenesses, the athletes received no compensation.


Continue Reading Questions Remain After NCAA Vote Allows Student Athletes to Cash In

The New England Patriots recently released star receiver Antonio Brown following allegations of past misconduct, which Brown denies. Setting aside instances in which such clauses are prohibited by unions, Brown’s termination highlights two issues that should be carefully considered when drafting any morals clause – what constitutes a morals violation and timing.

How Bad Is Bad?

Assuming no prohibitions from relevant guilds, sports teams, studios, advertisers, and other employers may negotiate with talent over what conduct qualifies as grounds for termination on morals grounds. Some behaviors, such as sexual assault, criminal fraud, or acts of violence, are so clearly over the line that they are generally non-negotiable and always included. Defining exactly what additional conduct counts as “bad behavior” for this purpose is often highly contentious, however, and can involve many categories of behavior, with qualifiers relating to, among other things, actual damage to the employer. For instance, both parties can agree that an employee may be terminated for cause based on “bad behavior,” as defined in the contract. But what happens when the company/studio/employer seeks to terminate a relationship on morals grounds, but the talent disputes the truth of the allegations? To avoid uncertainty, the parties may wish to define what level of investigation or proof is required before a morals termination is triggered.


Continue Reading Lessons from Antonio Brown’s Dismissal: Don’t Fumble the Morals Clause