Legal writer Ben Thomson looks at the leading entertainment law firms
Ben Thomson* Entertainment companies are at the forefront of the digital revolution, including AI and the new technologies that are rushing headlong into new media and entertainment delivery platforms.
And the entertainment law firms that specialize in the area continue to grow and expand their capabilities in the new age of AI and digital transformation, impacting every aspect of entertainment and media.
Entertainment law is a specialized area that deals with legal issues surrounding the entertainment industry, including music, film, television, and the performing arts, but which are the best entertainment law firms in the legal industry today? We checked out who made the final cut.
The modern entertainment lawyer will deal with matters ranging from movie and television production issues to game industry, video games, music, and all manner of related digital content, including legal practice areas that are fast developing in digital media, including virtual reality and the development of the metaverse.
Entertainment companies now provide an array of entertainment and new media issues beyond the traditional feature film, broadcast rights and other ‘entertainment law’ business. Many of the best entertainment law firms are major ‘Big Law’ firms, others are boutique law firms.
Entertainment law firms provide legal services to clients in the entertainment industry, such as artists, producers, writers, directors, and more. To assist individuals and organizations in finding the right entertainment law firm, the following article will provide an overview of the nature of entertainment law work and the key criteria that should be considered when looking to retain a good entertainment law firm.
Nature of Entertainment Law Work
Entertainment law covers a wide range of legal issues related to the entertainment industry. The best law firms will generally have expertise, or whole departments focused on these and other key areas of law.
Frequently they will be involved in sophisticated financing transactions and deals involving not only content providers and innovators, but media deals involving new technologies and platforms.
They will also typically have a strong involvement in litigation relating to media and entertainment issues, including IP protection, trademark issues and the like.
Some common areas of entertainment law include:
- Contract law – negotiating, drafting and reviewing contracts for music recordings, film productions, television shows, and other forms of entertainment.
- Intellectual property law – protecting the rights of artists, producers, writers, and others to their creations and trademarks.
- Copyright law – ensuring that clients’ works are protected from infringement and that they receive compensation for the use of their works.
- Trademark law – protecting clients’ trademarks, logos, and brand names.
- Advertising law – advising clients on legal issues related to advertising and marketing, including endorsement and sponsorship deals.
Key Criteria for Selecting an Entertainment Law Firm
- Specialization – It is important to select a law firm that specializes in entertainment law, as they will have the experience and knowledge necessary to handle the specific legal issues related to the entertainment industry.
- Reputation – Look for a law firm with a proven track record and positive reputation within the entertainment industry.
- Experience – Choose a law firm with extensive experience in the area of entertainment law. This will ensure that the firm has a good understanding of the industry and can provide the best legal advice.
- Communication – Select a law firm that is responsive, communicative and approachable, as clear and open communication is key to any successful attorney-client relationship.
- Network of Connections – Consider a law firm with a network of connections in the entertainment industry, as these connections can be useful in negotiating deals, resolving disputes, and obtaining favorable outcomes for clients.
In conclusion, entertainment law firms play a critical role in advising clients in the entertainment industry. When selecting an entertainment law firm, it is important to consider the firm’s specialization, reputation, experience, communication, and network of connections. By following these key criteria, individuals and organizations can find a reputable entertainment law firm that will provide them with the best legal services and advice.
So Who Made The Leading Entertainment Law Firm Cut?
So who are the go-to firms and entertainment attorneys?
Entertainment law is a complex and ever-evolving field that requires specialized knowledge and expertise.
The following article will provide an overview of some of the leading entertainment law firms in the United States and the United Kingdom, including both big law firms and smaller or boutique practices.
Skadden is a large, multinational law firm with a strong presence in the entertainment industry and has used it commercial prowess in M&A and other work to also handle some of the complex areas of entertainment law that many might not immediately think about, such as Federal Trade Commission, CFIUS, antitrust, FCC and other regulatory counsel relating to industry transactions.
As one of the largest firms in the world with years of experience, Skadden has a long history of acting as legal counsel in the music, film, television, and digital media industries. Skadden has been involved in several high-profile entertainment transactions as well as professional sports work, including the acquisition of DreamWorks Animation by NBC Universal and the merger of Spotify and Anchor FM.
Akin Gump is a large, full-service law firm with a strong entertainment practice. The firm has represented clients in the music, film, television, and digital media industries, and has extensive experience in negotiating and drafting contracts, protecting intellectual property rights, and handling entertainment-related disputes.
The firm has been involved in developing innovative financial instruments relating to entertainment and intellectual property matters and entertainment practice head Christopher Spicer and partner Marissa Román Griffith have been named by The Hollywood Reporter to its Top Dealmakers of 2022 land also recognized by THR in the publication’s annual Power Lawyers list.
Cowan DeBaets is unique as an entertainment law firm as it is 50 per cent owned by women and has been successfully handling a wide range of entertainment and media law issues for over 25 years, from offices in both Los Angeles and New York.
A boutique law practice it handles a range of IP, trademark and related issues as well as the representation of individual content creators, media businesses and others.
David Wright and its media division has received recognition from media outlets like US News ‘Best Lawyers’ and Law360 for their entertainment and media work and continue to expand and develop their division as the media sector continues its own technological development.
The firm handles pre-publication and pre-broadcast reviews and litigation in the sector, but also innovative financing and media and sport law representation. The firm is also known for its First Amendment, defamation, subpoena, and reporter representation work in the wider media industry sector and its intellectual property work.
Greenberg Traurig have extensive and well recognized experience in entertainment law and the many technological developments that have occurred in the industry in recent years and like several of the major firms has a strong presence in entertainment and multimedia centers like Lose Angeles and New York.
Recently the firm was involved in the issuance of $1.8 billion offering of senior notes to independent music publishing and licensing company Concord in one of the largest music-bond deals ever, involving a diversified catalog of more than one million music compositions and recording assets from well-known artists including Phil Collins, Creedence Clearwater Revival, R.E.M., Daft Punk, Miles Davis, Imagine Dragons, Pink Floyd, Cyndi Lauper, Little Richard, and James Taylor, among others.
Harbottle & Lewis is a leading entertainment law firm in the United Kingdom, with a long history of representing clients in the music, film, television, and digital media industries which the firm regards as part of its DNA.
The firm has extensive experience in intellectual property law, contract negotiations, and dispute resolution, and has been involved in several high-profile entertainment transactions and media financing deals.
It has also advised on an array of television and other broadcast rights issues, including Royal weddings and other events.
With entertainment industry clients like Arnold Schwartzenegger, Loeb Loeb has always been a muscular favorite in the entertainment law world.
This is a firm that has decades of experience in the entertainment industry and has one of the largest, interdisciplinary legal teams handling movies, sports, technology, and corporate work of any law firm.
It has received law firm of the year awards in the entertainment industry and continues to expand its work and involvement in the dynamic world of modern entertainment law and its associated areas of activity.
Lewis Silkin is a leading entertainment law firm in the United Kingdom, with a strong focus on the music, film, television, and digital media industries.
The firm has extensive experience in contract negotiations, intellectual property law, and dispute resolution, and has been involved in several high-profile entertainment transactions, including the acquisition of Universal Music by Vivendi
Manatt is a full-service law firm with a strong entertainment practice that it has developed over the past half century. The firm has extensive experience in the music industry, film, television, and digital media industries, and has a deep understanding of the complex legal issues that arise in these industries.
The firm has also been involved heavily in the burgeoning metaverse space and already have a proven track record of successful transactions industrywide. Manatt manages the spectrum of opportunities in this space, from consulting to dealmaking to litigation.
Frankfurt Kurnit is a New York-based boutique law firm in the entertainment space that has been involved in the business for the past 40 years.
As the world’s publishing capital, Frankfurt Kurnit have represented some of the largest publishers, but they also handle work for producers, directors, distributors, actors, celebrities, models, writers, financiers, charitable organizations, online content and service providers among others.
The firm is full service, handling tax, litigation, corporate and other work, but as an entertainment firm it has established itself as one of the best in the United States.
O’Melveny has been heavily involved in the entertainment business since the 1930s and now represents entertainment clients involved in film, video, cable, and a raft of household-name entertainment figures, ensuring it is one of the best law firms in the entertainment industry.
The firm has also been heavily involved in contract negotiation, joint ventures and IP, First Amendment litigation and other dispute resolution issues as new technologies continue to change the face of the entertainment business globally.
The firm has represented some of the biggest names in entertainment and also acted on high-profile M&A transactions, film and television transactions, recording and publishing deals, catalog sales, and complex litigation.
The firm has also been recognized for its work in the industry with regular references in national entertainment publications such as Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard.
The firm represents Madonna among many others and has a strong reputation for its work in copyright and labor and employment issues in the entertainment industry, focused in particular on the music and motion picture industries.
The firm has handled complex issues relating to disputes involving everything from copyright issues to publicity rights, trademark, unfair competition, rights of publicity and privacy and many other often complex and difficult areas of entertainment law.
Clients include recording stars Madonna, Daft Punk, U2 and Jack White as well as global entertainment groups such as Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Bros., Live Nation Entertainment, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc.
These are just a few of the leading entertainment law firms in the United States and the United Kingdom. When selecting an entertainment law firm, it is important to consider the firm’s reputation, experience, and expertise in the specific areas of the entertainment industry that are relevant to the client’s needs.
The Changing Entertainment Industry Scene and the Firms Playing a Key Role
As digital media, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and other technologies continue to transform the entertainment industry, new legal issues and challenges are emerging.
With the introduction of new devices and new delivery methods, as well as different content types emerging, the disruptive products and services and upended the traditional business models and former entertainment industries.
The entertainment sector has changed along with its legal needs. The changing legal frameworks have seen often complex transactions that require specialized legal assistance.
Law firms are focusing on the following key areas of entertainment law:
- Digital Media and Intellectual Property – With the rise of digital platforms and streaming services, intellectual property law has become a critical area of focus for entertainment law firms. Issues such as copyright protection, licensing, and royalty disputes are becoming increasingly complex in the digital age. Firms like Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and CAA have extensive experience in these areas, and are at the forefront of legal developments in digital media and intellectual property.
- Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality – As virtual and augmented reality technologies continue to advance, legal issues related to these technologies are becoming more prominent. Areas of focus for entertainment law firms include contract negotiations, licensing, and dispute resolution in the virtual reality and augmented reality space. Firms such as Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips have experience in these areas, and are well-positioned to provide legal representation and guidance to clients in this rapidly growing field.
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – As artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies become increasingly prevalent in the entertainment industry, legal issues related to data privacy, data ownership, and data security are becoming more important. Firms like Harbottle & Lewis and Lewis Silkin have expertise in these areas, and are at the forefront of legal developments in the AI and machine learning space.
These are just a few of the key areas of entertainment law that are becoming increasingly significant as digital technologies continue to transform the entertainment industry.
Ben Thomson has written extensively about law firm business and marketing, including for LawFuel where he last wrote the 30 most prestigious law firms list and may be contacted at [email protected].