Entertainment Authors Law and Legal Definition

U.S. copyright law contains provisions specifically directed at the entertainment industry. For example, the songwriter—or the copyright holder, if the songwriter has transferred the song's copyright or created the song as a work for hire—decides who can first record a song for publication. However, once the song has been recorded and published, the copyright holder may no longer limit who may record the song. If a song's copyright owner has previously granted permission to someone to record a song or if the songwriter has recorded and commercially released a recording of the song, the copyright holder is required by copyright law to grant a license to anyone else who wants to record that song. This is called a compulsory license. A licensee who records a song under a compulsory license is required to follow strict statutory guidelines for notification of its use and reporting sales and royalties to the copyright holder. The fee for a compulsory license is set by Congress at a few cents per recording manufactured, and is adjusted for inflation every few years.

Another primary contract in the entertainment industry is the contract for rights. This contract often involves a transfer of copyright ownership or a license to use certain creative property (e.g., a song or photo).

Many times, a contract for rights is combined with a personal service agreement. The agreement will often state that any work created by the artist during the term of the agreement is considered a work for hire. The company with whom the artist has contracted often receives automatic ownership of the copyright to a work for hire. For a work for hire to exist, the artist must either be an employee of the company or create the work pursuant to a valid written agreement—and even then the work must fall within a few specific categories defined by copyright law.