New Firm Says YouTube And Other Digital Media Raise Royalty Concerns

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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With its stately Colonial homes and sailboat-dotted harbors, Connecticut might not be the first place that people think of when it comes to the glitzy glamour of movie deals and recording contracts.

But for a small number of specialty law firms in the state, the proximity to New York City and the large number of entertainers who call Connecticut home has brought a steady flow of business in the practice area, which typically includes a mix of contract law to secure artists' creative work and copyright law to protect the performers' royalties. Robert Redford, David Letterman and Joan Rivers are among dozens of entertainment professionals who live in the state and have been known to rely on Connecticut lawyers to help them get paid.

One new firm launched in Westport by established attorney Stephen E. Nevas is banking on new business from the increase of musical and dramatic performances being copied and shared through the use of YouTube and other digital media. He represents clients in his media and entertainment law practice who are constantly on the lookout for infringement of their copyright-protected songs and film performances.

"When you distribute these performances digitally, online, there is always a risk of outright theft of the material," Nevas said, meaning someone accesses something they should be paying for, without paying, and also infringement. "It's the new world we live in, the bands don't make any money selling records any more, they make their money from the concerts."

As Nevas explained, many actors and actresses "are very fearful" of new technology by which their performances can be digitally "cloned," or copied, and redistributed without their approval. If copyright-protected songs or movie scripts are infringed upon, "most clients want to go after them."

He said the Internet has opened up a "whole new world" of infringement claims.

Peter Giuliani, a law firm business consultant based in Weston, said live entertainers like Jerry Seinfeld are doing "almost all" of their creative content on the Internet. Some of those performances are sold in pay-per-view formats. Others are available to subscribers only.

"It's cheaper and you don't have to please censors and sponsors," Giuliani said. That kind of creative control is something that entertainment professionals like, but it comes with a price. Restricting access can attract those who want to view or distribute the material without paying. If something really gets a lot of eyeballs, it increases the chance for infringement and lawsuits.

With the potential for business growing because of internet performances, Giuliani said attorneys will see an increase in business "wherever these leading creative visionaries choose to live."

Because of its proximity to New York City, Connecticut could stand to gain more of that type of work.

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