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Legal Fundamentals of the Music Business: 2016 Update

(250 reviews)

Produced on October 03, 2016

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Course Information

Time 1h 2m
Difficulty Beginner
Topics covered in this course: Arts & Entertainment

Course Description

In this update to Steven Gordon’s original course, attorneys Steven Gordon and Robert Clarida address two distinct and highly relevant hypothetical situations in the music business:

Part I

Johnny Rocker just got an offer from 2nd Server Records, a digital record company. Although they are a small label 2nd Server has had several big successes with alternative rock acts who are getting rave reviews in the leading music blogs and are making a decent living from touring as well as selling records online. Johnny is seeking an attorney because 2nd Server wants him to sign a recording contract. He doesn't understand all the terms and he doesn't know what is standard. 2nd Server not only wants him to grant to them the copyright in his recordings, they also want the copyrights in his songs. In return they will pay him a retail royalty on record sales and 50% of any income from his songs. He is hesitant about granting the copyright in his songs because he has been earning performance royalties from his PRO, ASCAP, from college radio play, and is hesitant to give up 50% of those monies. They also want the right to trademark his name and keep 25% of any other monies he makes in the entertainment business including merchandise with his name. Will you be able to help him negotiate his deal?

Part II

DJ Biz Music released a song named "My Life" in January 2008. He hears a song on the radio by a top female recording artist in 2016 including a "hook" that sounds identical to the heart of his song. What are his options?

Learning Objectives: 

Part I 

  1. Grasp copyright law's applicability to the music business

  2. Identify the fundamentals of music licensing, including the roles of, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, Harry Fox, and Sound Exchange

  3. Understand role of the music lawyer including transactional work and opening up opportunities for clients

  4. Become familiar with Basic Music contracts, including: manager deals, recording agreements, and music publisher and songwriter agreements

  5. Recognize how to register copyrights and trademarks for various mediums and parties
  6. Comprehend new rules and recent cases related to the digital distribution of music
Part II 
  1. Address the nuances of music business copyright infringement litigation

  2. Appreciate the basic elements of determining copyright infringement in the context of the music business

  3. Discuss the details and impact of the “Blurred Lines” case

  4. Consider the details and impact of the “Led Zeppelin” case

Credit Information

After completing this course, Lawline will report your attendance information to {{ accredMasterState.state.name }}. Please ensure your license number is filled out in your profile to ensure timely reporting. For more information, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements page . After completing this course, {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} attorneys self-report their attendance and CLE compliance. For more information on how to report your CLE courses, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements FAQ .


Steve Gordon

Steve Gordon Law

STEVE GORDON is an entertainment attorney with over 25 years of experience, including ten years as Director of Business Affairs/Video for Sony Music. His current and recent clients include emerging and major record label artists; managers; music and television producers; entertainment companies such Time Life Films, Shout Factory and Soul Train Holdings; and cultural institutions such as the Smithsonian Institution and the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. He also represents television, film and web based producers and production companies.

Other areas of his practice include serving as an expert witness; counseling producers of and participants in reality TV shows; registering trademarks and copyrights; and supervising copyright infringement and contract litigation.

Steve also operates a music clearance service for producers and distributors of feature films, documentaries, ad campaigns, musical theatre, concert programs, audio compilations, and music based apps and websites.

Steve is the author of The Future of the Music Business (Hal Leonard 4th ed. 2015). The book provides a legal and business roadmap to artists, entrepreneurs and music industry professionals for success in today's music business. Steve updates the book at www.futureofthemusicbusiness.com. His new book, The 11 Contracts That Every Artist, Songwriter and Producer Should Know, will be published by Hal Leonard this spring but is available for pre-order now at https://www.backwingstore.com/products/the-11-contracts-that-every-artist-songwriter-and-producer-should-know.

Also an educator, Steve frequently lectures on entertainment law and music business issues, and is the recipient of two Fulbright scholarships. As a Fulbright scholar he taught courses on music business and law at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, and Tel Aviv University in Israel.

His CLE video for Lawline, "Thicke v. Gaye: Will the Jury's Decision Have a Chilling Impact on Creativity?" won the "Best Program" award at the most recent ACLEA (the Association for Continuing Legal Education) conference.

Steve is a graduate of New York University School of Law.

Robert Clarida

Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt LLC

ROBERT W. CLARIDA, a partner at the New York firm of Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt LLC, is widely recognized for his intellectual property expertise, having received professional peer recognition for the field of intellectual property in Chambers USA (2010), "New York Superlawyers" (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), American Lawyer's "Best Lawyers in the U.S."(2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) and for the field of copyright in Legal 500 (2007). 

He advises clients in a wide range of industries including music, software, film, photography and new media. He has also litigated a number of high-profile copyright matters and argued significant federal appeals in several Circuits. He is admitted to the New York bar, and to the federal bars of the Southern, Eastern, Northern and Western Districts of New York, the Eastern District of Michigan, and to the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, Seventh and Ninth Circuits.

Bob speaks and writes frequently on copyright issues, and is the principal author of the annual review of copyright decisions published each year by the Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA. He co-authors the regular copyright law column in the New York Law Journal, teaches a seminar on emerging intellectual property issues at Columbia Law School, is a past member of the AIPLA Board of Directors, the past chair of the Copyright and Literary Property Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, a past Trustee of the Copyright Society of the USA, and has served as an expert reviewer for the Multistate Bar Exam in the intellectual property area.

He earned his J.D. in 1993 from Columbia University, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar, after earning a Ph.D. in music composition from SUNY Stony Brook in 1987, and receiving a Fulbright fellowship to the Musicology Institute of Gothenburg University, Sweden.


gerard m.

Two very good presenters let them make more presentations

Wilbert C.

Both of these seasoned attorneys knew the law and presented very real world examples that were very understandable...I thought they both were OUTSTANDING!!!!

Doris N.

Great overview course, with great examples. Well done!

Gerard M.

two very good speakers program was well done

Chris D.

Enjoyed it and learned some stuff. Have a 17 yr old who writes music. Need to help him out!

Phil S.

Terrific job by both presenters.

Benjamin S.

Thank you!

Rosemary G.

Excellent presentation from each attorney.

Reid S.

very interesting speakers know the subject well

Robert L.


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