As most of us in the music business, we had to start somewhere. This might have been in college or home taught. Either way there is nothing like the real world experience of an internship before getting that first true job in the industry. In this post I will share a few legal issues that are current in todays entertainment industry.
Justin Henry brought up a class action suit against Atlantic Records for the work he done between 2007 and 2008 as he was hired on to be an intern. Justin believes the company is at fault due to New York State labor laws. This claim was filed June 17th, 2013. Depending on what the law is in the state of New York it could be possible that Atlantic Records are labile for abusing free labor. So the real question here is who is liable, the intern for offering to work for free or Atlantic Records for allowing the intern to work for the exchange of knowledge and experience?
I believe that nearly all companies explain and make very clear to the intern what they will and will not get from the experience. They tell what is expected of each party too. At this time if the intern or person wishing to be an intern did not agree with what was to be expected of them they should have not of taken the internship. Also, after they started the internship, if they didn’t agree with what was happening they could have arranged to walk away or quit. I certainly believe that this was the fault of the intern and not the fault of the record company. I think Justin is looking for a handout and companies like Atlantic records set up these intern programs for a safe and rewarding experience.
The next legal issue I would like to discuss is Pandora radio. Do you think it is fair to a songwriter, artist, or publisher to receive approximately $1300 for every one million times it plays your song on the radio? This is many times smaller than the amount an artist or songwriter would get paid if on a regular radio station. Some artist only made a few hundred more dollars than that for getting 22 million plays. I completely believe that Pandora is bluntly ripping artist off. Pandora themselves have sued performing rights organizations because they didn’t receive the royalties they were supposedly entitled to. Yet they will not pay the same royalties they expect to receive. As several companies battle with Pandora to save the rights of those who create music, many people have their music played all over the world without getting paid for it. I believe the whole purpose of owning a copyright is to make a claim of work for profit. If others take your work and use it for profit then they are in violation of this copyright law and should be pursued as follows. I also think before you give permissions of any persons using your material that you dictate what you will and will not allow. Artists do not have to submit their music to sites such as Pandora, especially if they know they are getting ripped off. The only way to disarm Pandora is by all musicians boycotting it and not allow their music to be played. At the end of the day it’s your music, you should be the one to choose what you want to do with it.
The last issue I would like to discuss is going to change direction toward the ownership of songwriter rights. In 1978 a provision was added to the copyright laws. It states that after thirty-five years a songwriter or recording artist can regain the ownership of work they had lost control over due to not having barging power when singing their contracts. Why is this important? Because people like Mr. Victor Willis of the Village People who signed away some of his rights can now make a claim on the work he has done. The purpose of this is to safeguard authors against unremunerated transfers and address the unequal bargaining position of authors, resulting in part from the impossibility of determining a works value until it has been exploited (paragraph four arts beat article). Sometime labels take advantage of people who do not have representation or the knowledge of what they are really doing when signing a contract. Provision like this helps those types of artist regain ownership of the rights. The big point I would like to make here is that having proper legal representation is a necessity when dealing contracts. That means to have someone experienced in that specific area such as music. Not all lawyers know music law just like not all lawyers know about dentistry.