Pilot and TV Series Agreements

Biletsky Law - Television Pilot OptionBeing given an opportunity to be an actor on a television series can be an exciting stage in an actor’s career. While the level of excitement will vary depending on the role that you are given, and the show that you are being cast on, there still is an air of excitement regardless of the project.

But what happens to this excitement if this is a show that you’ve never heard of, or even more so if it is a show that has never been aired? *Cut to close-up*, congratulations, you’ve been cast on a pilot!

For (almost) every television show, there is a pilot. A pilot is the developer or producer’s way to show the world what the new show will be about and who will be the regulars on the show. Although the world of television is changing due to new technologies and platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, the basic premise of a pilot still exists.

So what happens if you land a role on a pilot? Well, it is first important to understand what you’re starring in. The number of shows that are pitched to different networks and companies each season can be nearly unimaginable. People and companies from around the world spend months (or at least they should spend months) preparing pitches and sizzle reels all in the hopes of being picked up by a network or production company. Those few concepts which do make it through the heart aching process of selection are then given the opportunity to put everything they have on the line and to create a pilot for the networks and/or public to view.

Somewhere between the pitch, the sizzle, and the pilot, there comes a time where the developers need to attach talent in order to increase the value of the production. Herein comes the “Pilot Services Option.” This option essentially attaches you as talent for the production in the event that the idea gets the thumbs up and a pilot (and hopefully the rest of the season) is produced.

The Pilot

At this point, the developers don’t even know if the pilot is to be produced, but they want to have the option to attach you as talent in the event that it is. This option will set out the basic terms such as the length of the option, the compensation that is to be paid to you, the credit that you are to be afforded, and other provisions such as merchandising.

Once they have you secured as talent on the option, they need to go one step further and also secure you for the series, if it is to be produced. After all, a pilot which is successful would need to retain its original cast to keep the chemistry that was displayed in the pilot.

The Series

The series will also likely be in the form of an option since at this point, the developers are usually unable to commit to whether the series will also be developed. The series options will secure your place as an actor for one firm contract year, usually with as many as six annual options thereafter (coming soon, an article about the limitations of Personal Services Agreements). This section of the agreement will also lay out common terms such as compensation, credit, and other provisions related to the projects exploitation of your image.


Generally speaking, your compensation depends largely on one thing: union or non-union. Union productions are governed by the terms of the union’s collective bargaining agreement and include certain minimums that union members must be paid. In the motion picture and television industries, it’s most likely going to be the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) whose minimums you must be paid, if you are a member.

Beyond whether you are union or non-union, other factors such as who you are as an actor, what kind of role you will be playing, and what kind of production you are being featured in will have an impact on your compensation as well. For actors who are more established, compensation will also be based on prior rates that you’ve received.

For an actor, prior rates received is an important part of the gig because in many instances your compensation will be based on what you were paid before. There are of course other facts that go into basing your new compensation off of your old pay in that it depends; what kind of role you played, what kind of production the project was, and how old the rate is. You can see why these factors matter as basing compensation for a lead actor in an action series based on an actor’s 6 year old rate for a drama where the actor played a minor role will not be an accurate portrayal of the actor’s worth.

Pay or Play

Another important aspect of compensation is whether you are “pay or play.” As it sounds, “pay or play” requires that the actor be paid regardless of whether the actor’s services are ever actually used. An actor who is given a pay or play clause is in a good position as regardless of the development of the project, the actor is being compensated. Due to the risk that projects never make it, producers are hesitant to grant pay or play unless the actor is a key component of the production. For larger, well-known actors, they will almost always be pay or play as it would not be worth the actor’s time commitment if they were not guaranteed compensation.

And so on…

There are many other provisions that go into these agreements, the more important of them being what happens in case you breach the agreement and if they are deemed to have breached the agreement. Typically, if you breach the agreement, you’re probably not going to be working on the project and may be liable for certain consequences resulting from your breach. On their side, you will not be able to stop the production or have any kind of equitable remedies in the event they breach. That’s just how the business goes.

For more information on television actor agreements, or for assistance with your television acting career, contact Biletsky Law.

The Talent Agency Act and You

Biletsky Law - TAA“Procure employment.” These two words are something every artist and manager (and possibly others acting on behalf of an artist) should be aware of. In 1978 the Talent Agency Act was passed in California which required that any person acting as an artist’s agent be licensed. Most importantly, these laws broadly defined those who act as agents as those who “procure employment” for another. Also important is the repercussions for those who violate the Talent Agency Act (TAA).

One of the most famous of these cases is the 1996 case of the musical band the Deftones versus their former manager, Dave Park. Dave Park had sued the Deftones for failure to pay earned commissions. In return, the Deftones filed a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner regarding Park’s violation of the TAA. The Labor Commissioner’s investigation found that Park had violated the TAA on 84 occassions by procuring employment without a license. The result? All commissions earned by Park in relation to the Deftones was disgorged and returned to the Deftones and all management agreements were cancelled.

This hasn’t been the only instance where the TAA has caused headaches for managers though. Matthew Katz, the former manager of Jefferson Airplane, forfeited more than $12,000,000 resulting from his violation of the TAA. Other sizeable cases can be found in almost every corner of the entertainment industry from music, to movies, to theatre.

From the above examples, you would think that managers across the board would be inclined to attempt to keep their distances from any kind of activity that could potentially violate the TAA. But, that’s not necessarily the case. The roles of managers between industries are very much the same, yet vastly different, depending on the industry.

In the motion picture and television industry, the role of a manger is more confined to that of how the role of the manager is defined. The manager will look after the day-to-day operations, ensure that all of the projects are lined up and running smoothly, and make sure that all of the jobs that the agent had obtained for you are on your calendar and ready to go.

In the music industry, the role of the manager can sometimes be a bit more blurred. Your manager will do similar tasks such as ensuring that your recording projects are lined up and going smoothly, but from time to time, a manager may be able to book you a gig or an appearance. Although this seems to be within the normal realm of a manager’s duties, you can see why “procuring employment” could be as simple as booking a gig for your client or arranging an appearance where the client gets paid (autograph signing, product sponsorship, etc.).

So, after all the problems that the TAA can cause a manager, you may be asking yourself, why don’t these managers just obtain a Talent Agency license to make it so that they don’t have to deal with these sort of problems? In many instances, companies may offer both managerial and agency services and may be equipped with the necessary licenses. But for the most part, it is usually a pretty good bet that your manager does not also simultaneously have their agency license.

California has enacting somewhat strict guidelines and regulations for agents to be licensed. Although not prohibitively expensive or complex, the process is somewhat costly and lengthy enough to deter your average manager from also pursuing an agency license without having a legitimate agency business to run.

So where does this leave you? Well, if you are on the talent side, you can rest assured knowing that the law is usually on your side when it comes to keeping your team compliant with the law. On the management side, you need to walk a thin line in providing your services to your client to ensure that you do not run afoul of the TAA.

For more information on the Talent Agent Act or for assistance in a matter related to the TAA, contact Biletsky Law.

Fitness Releases

Biletsky Law - Fitness LawWhen going to work out in a gym, compete in a competition, or perform on the set of a production, you will likely be confronted with a release document to sign. While these release documents come in many shapes and sizes, the basic function of all of the releases is the same, which is to relieve the other party from liability.

In gyms, the predominant concern is that the gymnasium is providing a facility and equipment which you could potential injure yourself on. Gyms often require releases when signing up or when visiting to help shield themselves from liability.

When competing in a fitness or athletic competition, you are usually required to sign a waiver and a release form as well. With a competition, there is additional concerns beyond providing the facility and equipment in that you are also pushing your abilities to the limit and are at a greater risk of injuring yourself.

With regards to filming releases, regardless of the type of filming that you are involved with, there is undoubtedly going to be some kind of release or waiver which protects the production company from liability (and also allows them to use your image, amongst other things). This is even more so the case when dealing with productions that involve some kind of athletic or fitness performance. The importance behind these types of releases is the fact that you are being given access to certain facilities. Furthermore, you may also be given instructed to perform  certain activities where there is a high risk of death or serious bodily harm.

So, what’s in these agreements that act to protect these gyms, competitions, and productions from liability?

Acknowledgment of Risk

One of the first parts to the release is going to be a section where you formally acknowledge the inherent risk in participating in whatever it is that you are signing up for. Whether it be the 30 foot rock wall at the gym or the sword fight scene that you are featured in. If there is some kind of activity or thing that carries with it a risk of injury or death, this paragraph will make you acknowledge that such a danger exists.

Assumption of Risk

This section comes with it more history and controversy than most other sections. There have been cases upon cases dealing with the assumption of risk and whether they are against public policy and therefore invalid. One of these arguments is the fact that although the activity may be inherently dangerous, the operator of the activity still has a duty of care to keep you safe.

There are other logical considerations to take into account as well. For instance, sky diving has an inherent risk of harm that comes with partaking in the activity. In a world where the assumption of risk always prevails, the sky diving operator wouldn’t be held to such a high duty of care since you already assumed the risk. In such scenarios, what need is there to keep all of the safety procedures in place or the maintenance of the plane at top performance?

Release of Liability

You’ve acknowledged the risk, you’ve assumed the risk, and now you’ve taken the next step and released the other party from liability. This is the third step in the release where you agree that regardless of what happens, that the operator is not liable and that neither your nor anyone who may succeed you (in the event of death or serious bodily harm) will be able to bring any claims against them. Some of these releases will go pretty far as to release any kind of liability, even so far as to release them from liability resulting from their own negligence.

Disclaimer and Waiver of Warranties

Depending on the service or product, there are certain inherent warranties that come with the product or service. In certain instances these may apply more towards products themselves (think vitamins and supplements) where you are signing off that you do not expect the product to perform in a certain manner.


There are of course other provisions. Depending on the activity or situation, there may be terms which require you to pay for all of your own medical expenses, but which authorizes the establishment or company to call emergency personnel in the event of your injury. One reasons for this is that they do not want to pay your medical expenses. However, they also do not want your condition to worsen while you are injured on their premises. So instead, they want to have the authorization to be able to call and get you out of there as soon as possible.

Whether you own the establishment, are in charge of production, or are the athlete that is signing off on the waiver, it is important that you be aware of what kind of terms you are agreeing to with liability waivers and releases.

For more information on liability releases or for legal assistance regarding releases, contact Biletsky Law.

Live Performance Agreements

Biletsky Law - Live PerformanceWhile making music is certainly one of the life lines of an artist’s music career, it is the live performances that many rock stars, DJs, singers, and other musicians dream about. Nowadays, the way the industry works has shifted in such a way that live performances have become even more essential than they used to be.

What was once the complement to album sales is now the bread and butter for some artists. Although the performance aspect of a musicians career is exciting, it is also one of the most important agreements that needs to be negotiated for an artist. Without negotiating the proper terms and conditions of the agreement, an artist may end up losing or owing money after going on tour. So what are some of the more important parts of a live performance agreement that you need to be aware of?

Place of Performance

The place of performance is important for many reasons. For one, you need to know where you are playing (and also if it is an acceptable venue for you), second you will likely be receiving complimentary tickets and kills (seats or spots that are unable to be occupied for some reason) based on the net capacity of the venue.

Date of Performance

The date of the performance will also cover the number of performances (if multiple), the time of performance, and the length of performance. Related to the date of performance, but not necessarily included in this provision, may also be a restriction on where else an artist is able to perform for a certain length of time. These restrictions may be based geographically or by the type of venue.


For some arists, the billing aspect of the performance is as important, if not more important, than the compensation. Billing is essentially how the artist’s name or likeness is displayed in advertisements for the performance. The billing provision of the agreement will state whether the artist is headlining, whether billing is sole or shared, and may even include how the artist’s name or logo is to be displayed.

For certain events, headlining artists are able to receive a percentage of tickets sold, so it is important that the billing provisions include that the artist is headlining.


How and what you get paid can be the determining factor of whether an artist will perform at an event or not. Compensation can come in various ways but is generally either a flat fee, a versus deal, a guarantee and door split, or profit percentage.

A flat fee, as it sounds is where an artist is given a flat rate for their peformance.

A versus deal is where the artist is given two figues, a flat fee guaranteed amount and a percentage of the net ticket sales. The artist will be given whichever amount is higher.

A guarantee and door split is where the artist is guaranteed a certain flat fee, but also recieves a portion of net ticket sales.

Lastly, a percentage deal will be where the artist receives an overall percentage on the ticket sales, usually with the house nut (what the venue has to earn to break even) subtracted.

There are of course other compensation methods, but these are some of the more common ones.


While billing and compensation are amongst the most important provisions in a live performance agremeent, the rider can be the most exciting part. The rider can be seen as the artist’s lists of demands in exchange for playing the venue.

As you can imagine, what goes into a rider varies greatly depending on the type of event, the venue, and most importantly…the artist. Riders may include everything from airplane and hotel accomodations to catering and meal requirements. Riders can specify almost everything from how the stage will be set up, to how advertising will be conducted and how opening acts will be selected. Those artists at the very top of the industry can, and have been known to, include more outrageous demand including everything from what color M&Ms are allowed, specifics on the furniture to be included in the green room, and even to have people dress as the Seven Dwarves.

Other – Exclusivity and Cancellation

There are many other imporant provisions to a live performance agreement. Two of these such provisions are exclusivity and cancellation. As mentioned above, exclusivity relates to the date of the performance in that there may be a black out provision where the promotor wants to have a monopoly of the venues that the artist plays. A restriction such as one that prohibits the artist from playing within a certain region (or at all) for 90 days prior to the event may be common to help build anticipation for the performance.

On the other hand is also cancellations. Things do happen and there are certain situations where the event must be cancelled. Generally, these are separated by those where the cancellation was due to force majeure (an act outside the control of the parties) where everyone losses, or where the artist has cancelled purposefully. In the event that the artist has cancelled, the artist will have materially breached the agreement and the venue’s remedies will be dependent on what terms were negotiated.

As you can see, the importance of knowing the terms of a live performance agreement can make or break your touring success. For more information on live performacne agreements or for assistance in your entertainment career, contact Biletsky Law.

Music Synchronization

Biletsky Law - Music SyncMusic that is featured in your favorite television show, motion picture, or even commercial can create a unique connection between you and the production. In many instances, you may identify the production through the song or visa-versa. The fact that such a connection can be created just by synchronizing a song with a particular production makes certain songs that much more valuable to a production.

And herein lies the synchronization license. A synchronization license is an agreement that allows the creator or producer of a type of visual media to use a particular song, or part of a song, in synchronization with a visual media project, or in the form of advertising for the visual project.

If you are either the creator or owner of a song or a visual production, there are several factors that you need to consider:

The Length of Use

The cost of a synchronization license will depend upon the length of the song and whether the entire song is being used or just a few seconds of a song. The length that the song is being featured in the visual production will largely dictate what kind of influence the song will have. Having a song featured in its entirety will often leave a bigger association between the song and the visual production.

In some instances, where an entire song is to be featured in a visual production, a hybrid license is used where the producer of the visual media pays for the entire cost of a song for the privilege of being the first to use the song. After the song’s use, the ownership of the song will then go back to the owner of the song.

Where is the Song being Used?

Another issue to be considerate of is where the song is being used. The impression that a song gives when being featured in the opening or closing scenes is substantailly different from the situational impression that a song being used only in a specific scene gives. Since music that is being featured in the opening and closing scene of a television show or movie commands such an important role, there are premiums that must be paid for obtaining permission to use the song in such a position.

On the other hand, music that is being used for small durations will vary in cost depending on the actual length of the use and the type of use. For the use of a song in certain controversial or explicit scenes, there may need some negotiation to use more popular songs in such a scene.

The Type of Synchronization

In addition to where the song is being used and how long of the song is being used, another pivital concern is the type of use. Type of use generally refers to how the song is going to be used in the production.

Background Instrumental
Generally, instrumental music is cheaper to license than music that has a singing component to it. With a background instrumental sync, the viewers cannot see where the music is being played from and only the viewers, not the characters, can hear the music.

Background Vocal

Slightly more expensive than background instrumental is background vocal. This type of synchronization is where there are words being sang, but you cannot see where someone is singing. This is music that only the viewers can hear but the characters in the movie cannot.


More expensive than background sync is a source synchronization where again, you can hear the singing, but you cannot see the the singer. However with this type of synch, the characters in the movie can hear the song. This plays a different role in the production since the characters are able to interact with the music.

Visual Instrumental

In contrast to the types of synchronization mentioned above are visual synchs. Visual instrumental is a type of synchronization where the viewer can hear the music and also see where the music is coming from.

Visual Vocal

Probably the most expensive type of sync license is a visual vocal license where you can see the person who is singing the song that is being played. The license will be even more expensive where the original singer or band of the song is playing the music.

Visual Dance

Yet another type of licensing is a visual dance sync license. This license, as it sounds, has dance components which are visable to the viewer.

As you can see, there are many different issues that come together when negotiating a synchronization license. Before you decide upon what kind of music to use in your visual production, take into consideration exactly how you plan to use the song.

For more information, or for assistance with a synchronization license, contact Biletsky Law.

2257 Regulations

Biletsky Law - 2257Back in 1984, Penthouse Magazine caused a tidal wave of events which led to Congress enacting 18 U.S.C. §2257 and 18 U.S.C. §2257A, also known as §2257 Regulations (also, a part of the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988). If you are a creating and/or distributing adult content, this is something very important that you need to be aware of.

How it All Started

It all started when Penthouse Magazine featured the then 15 year old Traci Lords in their September edition. The success that Lords received from being featured in this edition led to bigger productions which, when discovered, turned into an industry nightmare. To make a very long and complicated story short, the public outcry and lawsuits that resulted from this situation resulted in Congress passing Title 18 United States Code Section 2257 to prevent the distribution of child pornography. While the law has its own long and complex history, the important takeaway is that the law, in its modified and amended form, is a vital component to any production or website hosting adult content.

May I have your attention?

Individuals found to violate Section 2257 for their first time are subject to up to 5 years imprisonment. A second offense, will get you 2-10 years imprisonment. Hopefully, that first sentence was enough to get your attention to see how these statutes are not to be taken lightly. Furthermore, if you are in the adult entertainment industry, it is very important that you are aware and compliant of these laws.

So what is in this Section 2257?

The law itself starts out with “Whoever produces any book, magazine, periodical, film, videotape, digital image, digitally- or computer-manipulated image of an actual human being, picture, or other matter which— (1) contains one or more visual depictions made after November 1, 1990 of actual sexually explicit conduct; and (2) is produced in whole or in part with materials which have been mailed or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, or is shipped or transported or is intended for shipment or transportation in interstate or foreign commerce; shall create and maintain individually identifiable records pertaining to every performer portrayed in such a visual depiction.”

What does this mean?

What this all comes down to is if you are producing adult content, you need to maintain records for each performer that is featured. These records must sufficiently show that at the time of the performance, the performer was 18 years old or older. Furthermore, these records need to be available for federal inspection at all reasonable times.

Does this Apply to Me?

Whether these statutes apply to you depends on your role in the industry. Producers of adult content absolutely fall under this category. In fact, in 2009, the law was expanded to include secondary producers, which are those who: produces, assembles, manufactures, publishes, duplicates, reproduces, or reissues a book, magazine, periodical, film, videotape, digitally- or computer- manipulated image, picture, or other matter intended for commercial distribution that contains a visual depiction of an actual human being engaged in actual sexually explicit conduct, or who inserts on a computer site or service a digital image of, or otherwise manages the sexually explicit content of a computer site or service…”

Just hosting?

Distributors or providers of “web-hosting services who does not, and reasonably cannot, manage the sexually explicit content of the computer site or service” are said to not fall within the category of those required to keep records. But that doesn’t necessarily get you off the hook. The industry standard (or at least, what should be industry standard) is for any distributor or host of adult content to include within their “Terms of Use” a special Section 2257 disclaimer which either provides for a link to the producers who should have the records, or a disclaimer stating that the website has no control over the material or was not responsible for its’ creation.


If you are producing adult content, you are playing a dangerous game if you do not have a proper record keeping protocol for your performers. Distributors and content hosts are in a somewhat better position, but it is still essential that a Section 2257 disclaimer be somewhere visible on the hosting platform as an extra step towards protection from liability.

For more information on Section 2257 regulations or for assistance with becoming 2257 compliant, contact Biletsky Law.

Defamation 101

Going back to your years on the playground, who would have thought that the bully who was calling other people names or spreading rumors about someone may have been Biletsky Law - Defamation piccommitting defamation. Defamation is a broad area of law that encompasses libel and slander (keep these two in mind as I’ll discuss the difference between the two further below). The actual definition for libel is “a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye, which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his occupation.”

Before going into the difference between libel and slander, here are the California elements for finding that someone has committed defamation: (Cal. Civ. Code §§ 44, 45a, and 46.)

1. publication of a statement of fact

2. that is false,

3. unprivileged,

4. has a natural tendency to injure or which causes “special damage,” and

5. the defendant’s fault in publishing the statement amounted to at least negligence.


1. Publication means that the statement was communicated to a third party who understands the meaning of the statement and who it is applied to. The requirement to constitute publication is VERY low. Any posting online easily fulfills the requirement and only 1 person needs to understand that the statement is defamatory and who it is directed to. For instance, posting that “someone has a sexually transmitted disease” on its face won’t appear to be defamatory, but so long as 1 person that reads that post knows who you are talking about, this element is met.


2. Falsity is the entire basis of defamation. If what you are saying is true, there cannot be defamation and truth is an absolute defense to a defamation claim.


3. “Privilege” comes in a few different ways such as the fair report privilege, the opinion and fair comment privileges, and substantial truth. Fair report comes from a public document or statement. Opinion and fair comment are based on opinions and subjects that can’t necessarily be proven true or false. For instance, “I think he’s an idiot” compared to “I think he’s a murderer”, the idiot statement would likely fall under the opinion and fair comment privilege while the murderer statement probably won’t. Courts look at the “totality of the circumstances” in determining whether the privilege applies. Substantial truth requires that the statement be mostly true, it doesn’t have to be 100% true, but mostly.


4. Generally, a defamation claim requires some kind of injury/damages to have been suffered. California does it a little differently than other states in that damages are not necessary if the statement is defamatory on its face. This means that no other evidence is needed to show that it is defamatory. For instance “he must of done something to have won that game” is arguably not defamatory on its face because you need more information in order to come to the conclusion that it is defamatory. “He only won the game because he cheated” would be defamatory on its face since there is no other evidence needed to see that the statement is defamatory.


5. Negligence can be a complicated topic but generally speaking, it is when a person is not acting with the reasonable level care that is due in a situation. This element goes towards the truth of the statement. For instance, if someone tells you that a guy killed someone and you post that online without looking it up, or figuring out if it was true, you likely acted negligent as to determining whether the statement was true or not. This last element is a huge part of the law and it varies when dealing with different people. A private person has the lowest standard whereas a public figure (those in the “public spotlight” for one reason or another would likely be considered a public figure, or a limited public figure) requires that there be actual malice for a finding of defamation. To put it simply, actual malice means that the person that wrote the defamation purposefully wrote it to injure the other person.

Libel v. Slander

Going back to libel versus slander, slander is a defamatory statement that is spoken and libel is a defamatory statement that is written. There are certain types of slander which are automatically defamatory. These are statements that convey that someone is a criminal, that someone has a disease, something that injures them professionally, and a statement about someone’s sexuality (they’re a cheater, impotent, etc.)

So, that is a VERY brief crash course in defamation. This area of law is substantially more complicated and there’s a lot more to it as well. For more information on or legal help dealing with slander, libel, and defamation, contact Biletsky Law.

Life Rights

Biletsky Law - Life RightsWhen books, movies, television shows or other productions are based on someone’s factual life story, it is important that the writer own or have permission to use those facts, especially if the writing will be used to make a profit.

“Life-story rights” are the rights that an individual or an entity owns in regards to the factual story regarding someone’s life. One of the purposes of obtaining these rights is to protect the writer from the future risk of the owner of those rights bringing a lawsuit against the writer.

Before someone’s life story makes its’ way to a movie or television production, they are often created as stories that are written either as books, scripts, screenplays, or other literary works. The process of how these literary works make it into a visual-arts production is another story, but even before that happens, the writer must either own or have permission to use the facts within the story.

While the facts themselves may not be owned by a particular person, acquiring these life-rights will protect a writer against a person’s claim of invasion of privacy, defamation, misappropriation, and the potential violation of a person’s right to publicity.

When someone else who is not the owner of particular life-story rights desires to create a writing including those facts or stories, the first step for those writers should be to attempt to acquire ownership or permission to use those life-story rights. Although it is not uncommon for these “licenses” or transfers of life-story rights to be done verbally, it is essential that any writer obtain written permission to use the life-story rights to reduce the chance of any problems which may arise in the future. Whether the oral agreement between the writer and owner is valid is another issue, but attempting to prove that you agreed to be able to use someone’s life-story rights is a completely separate issue that can cause many headaches for a writer.

So how does one acquire life-story rights?  The best way for both parties to enter into an agreement regarding the sale or license of the life-story rights is through a written contract which outlines the terms of the agreement such as; the rights that are being transferred or licensed, the term of the license, and the compensation to be paid (among many other terms). These agreements often come in the form of options or option-purchase agreements which basically reserve the rights for the writer to use. These contracts tend to range greatly in length and complexity depending on who the parties are. For example, a major motion picture production will likely have a lengthy and complex agreement which allows them to use the life-story rights in any way that can be conceived. On the other hand, a smaller or less-known writer may enter into a short one-page agreement with the life-story rights holder to be able to write a book or short story.

In addition to agreements between the writers and the owners of the life-story rights there are agreements which are entered into between writers and estates or third parties. Once an individual dies, there shouldn’t be a problem writing about them, right? Well, not exactly. In cases of well-known and famous individuals, those individuals may be entitled to a right of publicity to help protect their image. Since those life-story rights are valuable, certain states such as California allow a “successor-in-interest” to be assigned. If that is the case, you should attempt to obtain the rights to be able to write about the deceased from the owner of the posthumous rights.

As you can see, the acquisition of life-story rights is essential to help create a story based on true life stories. Although these rights open up a world of facts and stories that can be used in books, movies, and television productions, these rights can also be the demise of these productions if the rights are not properly acquiring.

For more information on acquiring, selling, or licensing life-story rights, contact Biletsky Law.

Fitness Sponsorship

“Making a living from doing what you love must be one of the most fulfilling things [that] a person can do.” –David Kimmerle.

The health and fitness industries are some of the greatest examples of people going out and doing what they love. In addition to being able to do what you love for work, being able to monetize on your accomplishments can be even more awarding. But the industry is not just about the prizes and competitions, the world of supplements and other health and nutrition products is an integral part to the fitness industry and provides a unique incentive to competitors and trainers.

Sponsorship is an essential way that athletes are able to monetize on their product. An athlete’s “product” is often considered their bodies and talents. When talking about sponsorship in the realm of sports and fitness, these companies are looking for the ideal person who can represent their brand and take their products or services to the next level. Whether it is because of the unique look that an athlete has, or because of the massive social media following that the individual has, sponsorship helps a product or service identify with their consumer base.

Having the look and having the talent that catch the eye of a sponsor is something that needs to be mastered in your field of specialty. However, once the lawyers come in and bring out the contracts, that’s where your hard work and skills have less of an impact and your leverage and negotiation skills come into play.

A sponsorship agreement can be divided into many different sections and it is important that you understand what each section means when you are presented with a sponsorship agreement.

The Compensation

Let’s face it, while you may love the product or service of the sponsor, just being a part of their organization may not be enough to sway you into signing a contract. Sponsorship agreements are somewhat unique when it comes to contracts in that the compensation is not always just the usual straight money deal. Certainly it can be, but often times it is a blend of money, products, and recognition. It is important before entering into a sponsorship agreement that you be able to identify what is important to you and what you expect to get out of the sponsorship relationship. This all depends on you as a person and where you are in your career. An athlete just starting out may have a hard time deciding whether the fame or fortune is more important in the beginning of their career. Whatever kind of compensation you choose, be sure that you make it clear to the sponsor what it is that you are looking for.


Conflicts in sponsorship agreements occur more often than one may imagine. One of the reasons for this is because many of these companies are “vertically integrated” and because they may not just provide one kind of product. Instead, they provide a multitude of products and may also be the manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and resaler of the product. When a sponsor has their hand in so many industries, the chances of you running into a conflict increases. It is essential that you keep track of who your sponsors are and what your limitations are as far as conflicts. In most cases, the contracts will very clearly outline for you what kind of products or services you are prohibited from being affiliated with, but for the contracts that don’t spell it out so clearly, it is important to be aware of what your sponsor does before entering into another sponsorship agreement.

Morals Clause

Morals clauses work to help prevent tarnishment or damage to a company’s brand or image. The validity and enforceability of morals clause is an entire issue in and of itself. Courts have battled with this time and time again, and whether this provision will be enforceable should be further down the road in your thoughts than what are in the these clauses.

Put the enforceability aside, it’s reasonable to understand why a pre-workout manufacturer doesn’t want a convicted murderer or a thief to be the face of their company. But there are some morals clauses that go too far in attempting to limit your speech and private actions. The basis to most of these clauses is that you cannot get in trouble by the law for certain things and it cannot come out in public that you partake in certain activities (for certain sponsors, drug and alcohol tests are mandatory and may come unannounced).

Your Duties

OK, so you’ve been sponsored! That’s great, but what do you have to do? Each sponsor requires something unique from the individuals that they sponsor. Some require that you post a certain amount of content on your social media pages, others require that you appear at certain events and ceremonies, while others require that you wear branded clothing of theirs when you are at certain events or even when you are out in public for a certain amount of time. It is important to understand what your duties are and what you need to do to make sure that you are not in breach of your contract.

There are many other provisions which go into these contracts and it is important that you are aware of the impact that each of these provisions have on your sponsorship relationship.

To learn more about sponsorship agreements or to obtain assistance in reviewing or negotiating an a sponsorship agreement, contact Biletsky Law.

Netflix Takeover

Biletsky Law - Netflix TakeoverApproximately 95 million U.S households subscribe to some form of cable television. Since cable’s introduction to the consumer public, cable providers have generally enjoyed an increase in the number of subscribers. However, for the first time in decades, this trend may come to a standstill. Subscription video on-demand streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are quickly gaining ground and recent surveys have even shown that up to 40% of U.S households subscribe to one service or another. What may be even more surprising is the ever increasing numbers of households who are customers of a streaming service provider but who do not pay for cable television.

Although modern cable services are often bundled with internet services, the massive numbers of customers who are flocking to the streaming services should be nothing short of alarming for the cable companies. What was once seen as the cable companies’ dominate marketplace (aside from satellite companies such as DirectTV and Dish Network), is now a shared marketplace with providers who are able to cater to their user’s exact needs.

But what does this mean to the average consumer? The low cost of these video on-demand streaming services has resulted in the major cable companies offering more incentives in an attempt to retain or recruit customers. Despite what “incentives” some of these companies are offering, there are little indications that consumers are buying into the cable companies’ attempts to mitigate the impact that the streaming services are having on their customer base.

To further divest the cable companies of their customers, several of the major streaming services have started producing original exclusive content that can only be viewed through their services. Hit television series such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” are commanding such extraordinary viewership that it is hard for the networks to keep up in their offerings of unique and captivating television series.

In addition to the original content offerings that the streaming services have, the streaming services have opened up new opportunities for smaller or lesser known productions to be picked up as a television series. These productions, which may have otherwise gone unnoticed, are now being given the chance for their concepts to see the light of day and to be produced.

While the landscape of television continues to change, so does the way in which consumers are able to view and access the content they want.

For more news and stories related to the changing media industries, be sure to follow Biletsky Law on social media.