This article aims at first understanding the crucial elements of entertainment law and the features of this particular field of law. Furthermore, the paper shall explain the legislation that implements entertainment law in India and that extends to our media industry.
The main focus of the article, however, will be on possible career opportunities as a legal executive who pursues entertainment law for a living. The scope of entertainment law and the possible prospects that come along with it shall make up the majority of this paper.
What is Entertainment Law
Entertainment law, also referred to as media law, is essentially a collection of different areas of law that have an impact on the entertainment industry of a nation. Thus, it is a sum total of various types of law including litigation, transactional law, contract law, compliance law, tort law, securities law, criminal law, tax law, international law et cetera that are relevant to our entertainment industry. Most of the time, the services in entertainment law overlap with the intellectual property law of the nation.
Entertainment law is generally divided into different categories based on the types of activities that have their own unique rules, customs, case law et cetera. This includes film, the internet, music, publishing and print media, television and radio, theatre, other multimedia, visual arts and design.
Thus, media law is a legal field that usually refers to broadcasting, advertising, defamation, freedom of information, internet, information technology, privacy, censorship, confidentiality, telecommunications, copyright et cetera.
Current Scenario in India
The entertainment industry in India has experienced an incredible and robust growth over the last few years. According to the FICCI-KPMG report, the media industry in India was expected to grow further at a compounded annual growth rate of almost 15% per annum so as to reach INR 1.4 trillion in 2016. The growth rate is expected to touch INR 2.26 trillion by 2020.
The Government of India has provided for the growth of this industry by opening up and relaxing the entry barriers for foreign investments, including the recent relaxation norms for the broadcasting sector. Many elements of the industry have had unprecedented advancements and the usage of the latest technology to stay updated.
Technology has been extended to all phases of production, digitization and globalization of content. The growth in this sector has been quite consistent and is moving along an upward hill even today.
The laws prevailing the area of media and entertainment and the world of the television, films, radio, music, internet advertising et cetera all fall within the ambit of entertainment law. The governing mechanisms and legal structures that oversee the growth of the media industry in India fall within the domain of our entertainment law.
Entertainment law essentially encompasses laws relating to corporate, finance, intellectual property, publicity and privacy. The major areas of cyber law include IPR, employment law, labour law, security law, contract law, international law, insurance law and corporate law.
Multiple Acts have been enacted in India over the years so as to overcome the legal circumstances in the media and entertainment industry.
- Press and Registration Books Act, 1867.
This Act was enacted with the object to provide regulations to the printing presses and periodical news for the preservation and registration of books. This Act was an important event in the field of media laws. It contained rules for the registration of books, the declaration by keepers of presses and publishers of newspapers.
- Vernacular Press Act, 1878.
This Act was introduced for better control of language that is used in the press. It was enacted with the main aim to quell Amrit Bazar Patrika which was considered to be bilingual under this Act.
- Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.
The Telegraph Act provided the Government with the exclusive privilege to grant licences for telegraphs. It provided for the interception of messages and takeover of licensed establishments by the Government in case of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety.
- Press Act, 1910.
The main feature of this Act was that it empowered the Government to demand security from any newspaper in circulation.
- Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act, 1931.
In 1914, the Defence India Act was enacted to impose restrictions on the press. Better control of the press was brought about in 1930 by way of the Indian Press Ordinance. The Indian Press Emergency Act was then imposed in 1931. The Government then appointed a Press Enquiry Committee in 1947 which submitted reports to replace the 1931 Act with a Press (Objectionable Matter) Act, 1951.
- Copyrights Act, 1957.
This Act along with the Copyrights Rules of 1958 was enacted to grant exclusive rights to an author or to a creator of some original work.
- Cinematograph Act, 1952.
The enactment of this Act brought about the certification of the cinematographed film. Provisions to examine films and sanction them for unrestricted or restricted use by certain categories of people was brought about.
- Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1994
This Act regulates the functioning of cable operators by requiring mandatory registration based on certain conditions. The Program and Advertising Code under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 regulates the content of any program or advertisement.
- Trade Marks Act, 1999
The Trade Marks Act provides required protection to names, titles, letters, word and other specific words or artwork related to media.
- Right to Information Act, 2005
This Act extended the freedom of media in India and included provisions for possible free speech.
II. Career Opportunities
Entertainment law is not considered as a specific separate legal discipline. Instead, it is an amalgamation of traditional legal disciplines like contract law, intellectual property law and business law. Thus, the industry utilizes many different fields of practice and requires entertainment lawyers to have extensive knowledge about various legal categories.
Ideally, they are also familiar with the multiple sectors of the entertainment industry, although, most of them choose to work in just one sector such as film or music.
Most entertainment lawyers practice either litigation or transactional law. Transactional attorneys essentially concentrate on agreements and contracts. Their main work revolves around drafting agreements for clients, ensuring agreements are honoured and negotiating business deals with clients.
Litigation lawyers, on the other hand, are more focused on defending their clients in possible lawsuits. Along with defending their clients, they pursue lawsuits on behalf of their clients when required. These attorneys are thus, good with both criminal and civil laws.
A typical day’s work when you’re an entertainment lawyer would involve:
- Negotiating and drafting development and production contracts including writer agreements, talent agreements and recording agreements.
- Facilitating and negotiating distribution deals for an entertainment project.
- Working on financing agreements for sponsorship, co-production investments, grants, bank loans and other types of investments.
- Preparing form agreements for clients including location releases, appearance releases and other license agreements.
- Reviewing contracts and other necessary legal documents to analyse rights, business issues or to answer other legal questions.
India has its fair share of nationalized firms that deal specifically with Entertainment and Media Laws. This includes firms such as Nishith Desai Associates, J. Sagar Associates, DSK Legal et cetera. Most top tier firms in India have unique and dedicated teams to handle issues regarding media and entertainment law.
These firms essentially have teams of lawyers who handle issues of contracts, compliance, IPR, dispute resolution, data protection, M&A, digital forensics et cetera. Boutique law firms in India, including Naik Naik & Co., Banana IP, Phoenix Legal et cetera, deal with media and technology extensively.
All agreements and contracts that revolve around motion pictures like endorsement deals, IP protection, celebrity contracts et cetera are all done with the advice of entertainment lawyers. Other areas of work include book publishing, music licensing and distribution, anti-piracy, IP infringements et cetera.
For a transactional entertainment lawyer at a firm, the essential skill required is that of contract drafting and negotiation.
Media and Entertainment Companies
Huge media houses such as Yashraj Films, Viacom et cetera, create motion pictures and shows for the media and also have digital presences on mediums such as websites and YouTube. Music companies such as T-Series, Saregama and their distribution companies like Reliance Entertainment, Eros et cetera also venture into production of shows and motion pictures. Companies involved in the print media, such as HT Media (Hindustan Times), Kasturi & Sons Ltd (The Hindu) et cetera also have a huge population to reach out to and have an influential digital presence.
These media houses that run huge companies in the industry have their own legal departments that work alongside business teams to draft and negotiate contracts, manage and acquire talent, litigate and protect their IP. These houses coordinate with law firms and lawyers so as to understand the legal requirements from a business perspective.
Thus, in-house lawyers who work for a media or entertainment company have to understand the company to a certain required depth and level, so as to effectively advise them and protect their best interests. These in-house counsels acquire expertise in different sectors of the entertainment industry by bridging assignments with legal departments and this paves the way to becoming the general counsel.
This area of work involves independent counsels who wish to represent the interests of the media companies, performers et cetera and are the people who appear in courts in order to seek necessary relief on behalf of their clients.
Some legal experts who have left their mark on this industry include Kapil Sabil, who introduced the Amendment Bill to the Copyright Act in 2012. Another prominent legal figure is Priyanka Khimani who has previously represented artists like Lata Mangeshkar, Sonu Nigam et cetera.
These lawyers’ work mainly revolves around balancing client interests and the applicable law. These entertainment lawyers are the ones protecting free speech and expression despite circumstances, and standing strong in front of the highest courts of law so as to protect the industry.
Thus, the expertise required for a media and entertainment lawyer is quite unique and is mostly based on specialized skills and knowledge of the industry.
India as a nation cannot possibly survive without media and entertainment. Movies, memes and music move us much more than any other form of entertainment previously available to mankind. As a consequence of its constantly evolving nature, it is highly unlikely that the industry would slow down.
With the current escalation in technology, the interest in searching and acquiring new, unique and different mediums of entertainment like web series et cetera is on the rise. The Indian media and entertainment industry, in particular, is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world.
The industry is incredibly rich, highly fragmented and extremely diversified. There is now increasing investment in film production and reducing the shelf lives of movies that make it to the theatre. As the technology that reaches India helps entertainment to reach our large population, the role that this industry now plays in our everyday life cannot be curtailed.
As a result of this, the continuously expansive industry also requires a continuously adaptive legal framework so as to maintain peace and order.
If fighting for the freedom of speech and expression, reading about the law that protects incredibly novel and innovative media, drafting agreements and the possibility of arguing to protect Shah Rukh Khan’s famous dance move excites you, then entertainment law is definitely the field for you.
- FICCI-KPMG, Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2012
- Astrea Legal Associates LLP, Media and Entertainment Industry
- Nishith Desai Associates, Media and Entertainment: The Growth of M&E Industry in India
- Legal Dictionary, Entertainment Lawyer and Entertainment Law
- Snigdha, How to Make a Career in Media and Entertainment Law, IP leaders Blog, 2018
 FICCI-KPMG, Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2012