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

Employers of U.S. residents who are remaining in Europe while projects are shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic might benefit from a new taxpayer-friendly approach. The new protocol forgives days spent abroad because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, as part of a foreign-country corporate residency analysis.

On March 23, 2020, the Irish Revenue Commissioners (Irish Revenue) issued Revenue eBrief No. 46/20, which announced Irish Revenue will adopt a taxpayer-friendly approach to corporate residency determinations for companies whose employees, directors, service providers, and/or agents are unable to travel as a result of recent government-imposed travel restrictions. This guidance came at the same time as similar announcements by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and several other countries. In particular, on May 20, 2020, and May 25, 2020, France and Germany, respectively, announced bilateral agreements with neighboring countries to ignore the presence of employees who must work outside of their country of employment due to government-imposed travel restrictions. Taken together, these policies suggest a universal willingness among international taxing authorities to quickly respond to the COVID-19 crisis and accommodate taxpayers as they navigate the evolving commercial realities of their businesses.
Continue Reading Working on a Production in Europe? Take Note of New Taxpayer-Friendly Residency Approaches in Light of the COVID-19 Crisis

On May 13, 2020, reality TV star Maurice “Mo” Fayne was arrested and charged with federal bank fraud by the U.S. Department of Justice in connection with his alleged misuse of loan proceeds obtained through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Fayne submitted his PPP application in April, on which he claimed his company, Flame Trucking, had 107 employees and a monthly payroll of about $1.5 million. Fayne obtained over $2 million in funding from the program under the pretense of using the funds to support his trucking company. Instead, Fayne allegedly spent the money on $85,000 in jewelry, including a Rolex Presidential watch, a Rolls-Royce Wraith, and $40,000 in child support.
Continue Reading TV Star Arrested for Misuse of Stimulus Funds

This article has been published in the September/October edition of Probate & Property.


With much of the entertainment industry currently at a standstill as a result of rampant production shutdowns, now may be a good time for those who are finding themselves idle to use this extra time to take stock of their financial situation and plan for the future.  Economic factors, such as the current depressed financial markets and historically low interest rates, have combined to impact and drive a variety of estate planning techniques.  While the current uncertain environment may – understandably – cause many to hesitate to engage in a substantial family gifting program, these economic conditions present a unique opportunity for families to pass a significant amount of wealth to younger generations with minimal transfer tax exposure.  We recommend contacting your Venable Wealth Planning counsel to discuss the techniques that may provide the most viable opportunity for your particular circumstances.

This post provides a high-level discussion of those estate planning techniques that present the greatest potential for an upside when implemented during a state of declining financial markets combined with historically low interest rates.
Continue Reading Estate Planning Opportunities for the Entertainment Industry in a Low Interest Rate Environment

For many entertainment businesses, the recent congressional stimulus has proved to be a smash hit. The IRS, however, is a tough critic and is looking to claw back some of that money by disallowing deductions associated with such stimulus funds. On April 30, 2020, the IRS released Notice 2020-32 (the Notice), which provides some clarity regarding the tax treatment of loans received pursuant to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Specifically, the Notice clarifies that any expenses paid with proceeds from forgiven PPP loans are not deductible for federal tax purposes. In an earlier post, we raised the question of whether such a deduction would be allowed; now the IRS has answered, but it may not get the last word on this issue.
Continue Reading No Deductions (Yet) for Business Expenses Paid with Paycheck Protection Loans

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), pursuant to which certain taxpayers are eligible to obtain low-interest loans to enable continued operations during the coronavirus pandemic. If a taxpayer spends the PPP loan on certain enumerated expenses, including, among other things, payroll costs and rent, all or a substantial portion of the PPP loan will be forgiven. Participation in the PPP, however, has some critical tax impacts that should be considered. Below is a summary of some of such tax impacts:

Continue Reading Tax Impact of the Paycheck Protection Program