Legal Loopholes & Pitfalls

If you’ve yet to find yourself on the wrong side of a legal case then you’re either very lucky, or you’ve yet to reach a level of fame that has attracted such attention.

What is unfortunately the case is that most artists do not get involved in any legal issues until they’ve reached a certain level of popularity. A fine-artist might, for example, unknowingly be plagiarising or misusing another’s work for years and go unmolested for the crime. However, as soon as their work reached a larger audience more eyes will be on them, and a greater level of scrutiny will be paid to their output.

Take a look through our questions here to consider whether you’re as clued up as you should be on these legal matters. If in doubt, ask fellow artists for advice so that you can prepare for the worst, should it arise.

Do you need an agent or managerial representation?

Although managers and agents might sometimes take a hefty percentage from your overall income, their advice and connections could prove invaluable if you are put into a difficult legal situation. This extends to all kinds of legal situations, beyond what you might normally expect from an agent. A good agent will know the law on Japanese Knotweed, as well as performance rights and insurance matters; they’re your first port of call should you get into any hot water!

Do you have the rights to your performing name?

You might think that your performing name is unique, but there are a lot of people out there trying to make it and only a finite number of original names to pick from! Before you get too attached to a certain name, it’s best to check that it hasn’t already been taken by a rival artist. If you start touting a name that is already in use, then you might find that you receive a rather nasty cease and desist letter…

Do you have the permission to perform your work?

If you’re currently working with a dance company, or performing in a covers band then it’s worth inquiring as to whether you have the necessary rights to perform your work. Covers bands need to have direct permission from the PRS to play other artist’s songs, as well as pay the appropriate royalties to songwriters. Dance companies should also ensure that they have the appropriate permission to use backing music.

Have you got a handle on your intellectual property?

Original artists and musicians must also be careful to protect their own intellectual property. Regardless of the stage you are at in your career, you should take appropriate steps to protect your own work from dissemination, plagiarism and unauthorised distribution. If you upload your work online make sure that it’s protected from those who might download it and keep an eye on other artist passing of your work as their own.

Are you properly insured and protected?

Finally, insurance is something that every artist should consider investing in, especially if you’re engaging in any kind of physical performance. Performing can often put you body at risk, not to mention your audience; should the worse happen and you (or an audience member) sustains an injury then you’ll be glad to have some kind of insurance to see you through any potential financial costs.