A Comprehensive Guide to the Entertainment Industry

By Michael C. DonaldsonJanuary 1, 2019

A Comprehensive Guide to the Entertainment Industry

Entertainment Law by Corey Field

IMAGINE A TEXTBOOK that is less than 400 pages and that answers all the most common questions you might have regarding the entertainment industry. Entertainment Law: Fundamentals and Practice, written by Corey Field, is a legal textbook that has turned this hypothetical into reality. The book provides a firsthand perspective of the field by a practicing attorney who is outside counsel for Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute, an educator at USC’s Gould School of Law, a former president of The Copyright Society of the USA, and the founder of Corey Field Law Group P.C. And that doesn’t begin to describe the depth and breadth of his experience or the passion he brings to his practice of law.

Entertainment law is complex and requires the transactional adaptability of its lawyers. The industry involves not only intellectual property law but can also include torts, employment law, and labor law. Fundamentals and Practice supplies students, lawyers, and future entertainment professionals with a comprehensive and practical guide that can effectively assist them in practice in this complex industry. The book has general outlines and timelines, including important deadlines, to successfully handle transactions in each segment of the entertainment industry. The treatise also provides “real world” guidance through an online supplement, which includes blank contracts that can be customized based on certain deal-specific points. As an experienced musician, writer, professor, and practicing lawyer, Field has gifted students and entertainment professionals with a clear, thoughtful, and well-rounded analysis of the field of entertainment law.

The organization of the chapters and the overall structure of the book allows the reader to think about what Field is addressing by including relevant and supporting case law, primarily in the footnotes. This structure is extremely beneficial to any learner or educator because it provides readers with an opportunity to come to their own conclusion; readers can fully comprehend the topic at hand before jumping to a case and having a judge decide it for them. Field allows the reader to focus on the main text of the textbook but also provides them with the added benefit of seeing in-depth case analysis applying the law. This structure is a departure from the structure of most other entertainment law textbooks, like Melvin Simensky’s Entertainment Law. Simensky’s textbook is a heavy, loose-leaf binder that includes pages of trade articles from sources like Vanity Fair and Variety to demonstrate how the top industries interpret the law. While beneficial in some respects, the arrangement forces the reader to rely on someone else’s language and interpretation of the law rather than the author of the book they bought. In Fundamentals and Practice, Field draws on his own personal skills and considerable expertise.

There are eight detailed chapters setting out the best approach for any situation and include the statutes relevant to each segment of the industry. The chapter titles make navigating the book easy: film, television, book and magazine publishing, music, live theater, radio, celebrity rights of publicity and privacy, and a final chapter on cyber law. The chapters are so clearly defined and segregated that each chapter may well become its own volume in a multi-volume treatise. These eight chapters provide a more definitive analysis on the entertainment industry than Dina Appleton and Daniel Yankelevits’s Hollywood Dealmaking and is more concise in structure and volume than Simensky’s Entertainment Law. Several entertainment professionals have attempted to effectively encompass the various branches and the specific laws associated with each one into one comprehensive book for others in the field to reference; but these books fail to include cyber and radio law. Lucky for us, Corey Field expanded his work into every area of the entertainment industry.

The first chapter, “Film,” includes information on the overall conception, production, and distribution of different film projects. Field accounts for any potential legal issues that could arise in the hiring and representation of both above- and below-the-line personnel. For example, on page 47, Field includes a chart formulating an actor’s box office bonus based on the theatrical box office receipts for an initial release of a picture as reported by the trade publications. This chart is extremely useful for quick reference and demonstrates how beneficial this book is for everyday use in the industry. This single chapter is every bit as comprehensive as The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Independent Filmmaking and may even be about the same length with the inclusion of the contracts online. Independent Filmmaking is much chattier and is directed to independent film producers, but the ABA book and Field’s chapter are comparable in the amount and value of information provided. Full disclosure: I wrote the ABA book with my partner, Lisa Callif. We also wrote the fourth edition of Clearance & Copyright, which has a more definitive analysis of fair use in the film industry. Fundamentals and Practice only briefly touches on the fair use doctrine, focusing attention on more general filmmaking concerns like the roles of talent and their representation in production agreements.

The chapter on television addresses issues pertaining to all types of television broadcasting agreements and the influence of new digital media on those agreements. Field includes useful models and references to help guide the reader through these agreements by referring to deal points associated with the newest streaming crazes on internet and mobile platforms offering subscription video on demand (SVOD). These models surpass the contracts and comments included in Mark Litwak’s Dealmaking in the Film & Television Industry in that Field goes beyond just the contract phase of the television model. Field highlights all digital media legalese necessary in contract provisions today like his language differentiating between “Over the Top” (OTT) online-only distributors (e.g., Netflix) and satellite closed circuit systems, such as cable production networks. Through his examples, he provides an overarching history of network productions and how that history can benefit the future of television. It is interesting how Field interprets and compares the traditional business model for television with the more recent model. He accurately notes that the traditional production agreements are still useful and beneficial in executing new and improved SVOD agreements.

In the third chapter, “Book and Magazine Publishing,” Field addresses legal concerns associated with contractual agreements between authors, literary agents, and domestic and international publishers. What is most interesting about this chapter is Field’s decision to include background information on the different formats of books and magazines. He goes into detail about how the physical appearance of a book alone can affect the marketability of a book, expectations of a purchaser, and an overall estimation of the book’s success. His analysis of the marketability of a publication is extremely useful not only for publishing contracts but also for any field of the entertainment industry. Field also includes a helpful comparison on investment considerations for ebooks as compared to hard copies. This comparison is notable because each contractual agreement with literary professionals must now include specific royalty language in regard to digital media that is narrow enough to protect a writer and any future agreements with other internet providers. Overall, Field offers practical advice for authors wanting to negotiate book and magazine deals by including common publishing deal points with useful commentary.

The fourth chapter, “Music,” provides considerable insight into the challenges facing the industry today. While some of the other chapters, such as “Film,” have brief summaries of music licensing laws, Field’s chapter on “Music” includes a more in-depth analysis on music copyright laws. This chapter is a worthy alternative to Donald Passman’s All You Need to Know About the Music Business. Passman’s book is exceptional in the sense that it is easy to read and straight to the point in regard to the music industry within entertainment law. The book can be read by any musician or individual interested in managing or becoming a musician; but Fundamentals and Practice has more insight into the complexities surrounding copyright law in the music industry today, such as Performance Rights Organizations and their fight for control over exclusive rights guaranteed to artists. While Passman provides brief context to the three major organizations, Field, in contrast, provides historical background on the development of each of the major organizations in addition to some of the minor ones. This historical background is essential to understanding the complexities within music licensing laws today, particularly the disconnect between the organizations influence over a copyright holder’s exclusive rights and the musician’s ability to profit from personal works. Field has also included a valuable chart summarizing those six exclusive rights and which organization administers those rights. Additionally, Field’s section on YouTube and the influence of stream-based outlets like Google Play and Spotify provides further insight into the major changes facing the music industry and how these outlets are transforming the way the public listens and interacts with music today.

Chapter five, “Live Theatre,” addresses licensing and ownership concerns typical of the Broadway business. While the chapter discusses primarily Broadway agreements, there is some off-Broadway and general theater provisions that are valuable for all types of live theater agreements. Particularly interesting is Field’s inclusion of certain underlying rights, like ownership of copyright in choreography or fanciful character makeup. Field provides a “best approach” analysis on preventing disputes over those rights that is useful for any professional interested in entering the theater business.

Field’s chapter on radio is noteworthy. Radio has become extremely relevant with the growth of private broadcasting, such as podcasts and Sirius. The chapter offers an articulate analysis of specific issues concerning on-air personalities involved in private and public broadcasting today. The chapter begins with a detailed description of the different radio formats. Field then delves into the regulation of on-air personalities by the FCC and provides additional useful information on talent agreements for radio personalities. In concluding the chapter, Field uses case law to fully explain the relationship between sound recordings and the royalty consequences facing songwriters and artists on the radio. Each section of the chapter is extremely well thought out and includes educated insight for practitioners and creatives participating in the radio business.

Chapter seven, “Celebrity Rights of Publicity and Privacy,” discusses the development of the right of publicity for both celebrities and non-celebrities and how to best recognize those rights apart from privacy torts. Field also includes an entire section on California’s new “Anti-Paparazzi Statute.” The new law is making waves because of the clash between the First Amendment and celebrities’ personal rights. Fundamentals and Practice also provides details on the relationship between a celebrity’s right to their name and likeness and the recent trend of designing avatars using that name and likeness in video games. Field furnishes useful case law to explain the major concerns of gamers creating these avatars. He limits the chapter by labeling the section as “Computer Games” instead of video games, which is more inclusive.

Cyber law is a complex and challenging area of law, but Field has artfully encapsulated the subject in the final chapter of his book, focusing primarily on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, and domain registration. Field begins the chapter by providing readers with a well-rounded history of the DMCA and its role in intellectual property. He includes a useful section on safe harbor provisions for internet providers for guidance when publishing anything online. Field also briefly introduces the ACPA before transitioning into the complexities associated with domain name registrations. The issue of domain name registrations has been frequently litigated because of the increased value of each name. This type of registration is what the ACPA was designed to monitor. Field offers a practical analysis of the two subsections so that readers can better understand the relationship and Congress’s attempt at protecting the rights of internet service providers.

Entertainment Law: Fundamentals and Practice contributes greatly to the entertainment field. We are part of a new, complex digital era with outdated laws and thousands of unanswered questions. This is our time to influence and interpret the law to the best of our ability. The books we use and the individuals who write them have the opportunity to guide entertainment practitioners and help them shape future law. Corey Field provides us with a well-realized interpretation of entertainment law and introduces a new level of sophistication and knowledge. His thoughtful description of the overall entertainment industry and his valuable analysis of the present issues are enormously useful for individuals currently working in the industry as well as those who want to launch a career in entertainment.


Donaldson would like to thank summer intern Kaitlin Chandler for assisting in the research and writing of this review.


Michael C. Donaldson is a Los Angeles–based entertainment attorney.

LARB Contributor

Michael C. Donaldson is a Los Angeles–based entertainment attorney who has been dubbed the “‘legal Obi Wan Kenobi’ and fair use guru of the documentary film set” by the American Bar Association. His award-winning books have been translated into 11 languages. They include Clearance & Copyright, a standard industry reference book; The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Independent Filmmaking, written with his law partner Lisa Callif; and Negotiating for Dummies. Michael’s recent article “Refuge from the Storm: A Fair Use Safe Harbor for Non-Fiction Works” appeared in the Spring 2012 Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA.


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