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MSLCE Students Learn Legal Backgrounds of Creative Enterprises

By Scotty Stieber

The world of media and entertainment may look fun and polished to those not working behind the scenes, but there are countless legal hurdles to overcome for these creative products to come to life and hopefully generate money.

MSLCE students taking Rick Morris’ Arts and Entertainment Law and Ethics course this quarter delved into some of the essential components that keep the entertainment industries running. Having consulted for several media entities and his research in policy, regulation and law surrounding entertainment and technology, Morris is well-versed in the legalities of today’s rapidly shifting creative economy. From property acquisition, merchandising and talent contracts, to trademarking and intellectual property rights, students were exposed to a wide variety of material this fall.

Law permeates across all business and industries. Although students in the class came from a diverse set of creative backgrounds, the information was pertinent to anyone interested in operating creative businesses of their own in the future. Contracts must be written, signed and maintained whether it’s within a performing arts center or at an advertising agency; the particulars of law, especially when it comes to regulatory frameworks, know no bounds.

Through case studies, the drafting of contracts and a final project, Entertainment Law and Ethics was all about the fusion of classroom and real-world assignments to create an authentic experience. The overall goal of the course was to develop useful skillsets for students without any law background.

Peter Strand, an entertainment lawyer who provides legal support for musicians, visited the class and spoke about the turbulent relationship between artists and record labels. Many creatives, particularly when they are just starting out, have little to no understanding of the legal processes of their practice. However, as Strand pointed out, they are often quick to sign into terrible record deals that overworks and underpays them.

As a creative walking into a contract deal, don’t go in blind. Ask for clarification. Find a pro bono entertainment lawyer. Or, as an Entertainment Law and Ethics student, know enough to be dangerous.

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