Being a sports or entertainment lawyer once meant you might help a pro athlete or singer with an employment or recording deal contract.
Today, that job title could mean you focus your practice on intellectual property, cybersecurity, taxation, or any number of other legal specialties, and that you do so from most anywhere around the globe.
A recent survey of TerraLex attorneys revealed that, while sports and entertainment have certainly gone global (thanks largely to the Internet), individual countries wrestle with their own unique related legal and political issues.
Survey participants emphasized that effective representation of sports and entertainment clients increasingly means collaborating with lawyers in all manner of disciplines in their firms – and with attorneys elsewhere around the planet.
“We need to have the broadest team of lawyers possible,” said attorney Mark Owens, chair of TerraLex’s Sports and Entertainment Industry Sector Team, and a partner with AmLaw 100 law firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP.
Also, this means being able to tap the local legal and cultural knowledge of attorneys worldwide.
“What, for example, does it mean to enforce a morals clause (in a contract) in Spain or France or the U.S. or Italy?” he said. “These are things only lawyers in each country will know and be able to help with.”
Topping the list of coming sports and entertainment issues are the rise of professional e-sports, the definition and protection of intellectual property rights, and gambling regulations, survey participants said.
The global phenomenon of e-sports (competitive, organized video gaming) has left governments everywhere playing legislative catch-up. Established rules governing traditional sports are often inadequate to regulate competitions that can take place in virtual and real-world arenas by players of all ages and nationalities.
Of course, with uncertainty comes challenges and opportunities alike to help e-sports clients make sense of this burgeoning, multibillion-dollar industry, says Brazilian attorney Fernando Stacchini, of Sao Paulo-based firm Motta Fernandes Advogados.
Indeed, e-sports clients will need help with everything from TV and various other kinds of broadcast rights, marketing and publicity, commercialization and protection of intellectual property rights, as well as cybersecurity and data protection, and taxation matters.
“All this will represent a huge opportunity for prospecting new clients and more work from current clients,” Stacchini said.
Attorney Anna Viladás of Spanish law firm Roca Junyent, also anticipates that labor law-related issues will be especially important in the e-sports arena, including negotiating salaries, as well as compensation from sponsorships and endorsements.
“A lot of the players are minors and are all around the world,” she said. “How will teams hire and trade such players?”
And as anyone who’s a fan of a team or band these days knows, athletes and entertainers don’t just perform on the field or stage. They create and share all manner of digital utterances and images through various media, often in collaboration with admirers.
Defining and protecting such intellectual property will continue to present fresh challenges and opportunities.
“In a content-driven economy, who owns and has the rights to (such intellectual properties) will be very important,” Viladás said.
The internet may have made gambling a global phenomenon, but regulation of it remains largely local. To this end, countries will continue to grapple with what kinds of wagering to allow, as well as how to tax it.
Opportunities for lawyers will likely be greatest in countries where lawful gambling is newest, such as Brazil, which only legalized sports gambling in 2018. Hashing out what kinds of business models will be allowed, as well as how billions in annual revenues will be taxed, will be but a fraction of the issues needing settlement.
“So much has yet to be figured out,” Stacchini said. “There will be many issues for lawyers to help clients with.”
Individual countries will also have unique legal issues in the coming year, underscoring the need for foreign lawyers to forge good relationships with local counsel.
For example, a non-Australian attorney with a sports-related dispute in that country will soon need to decide whether it’s better to participate in a newly established national sports tribunal, the Court of Arbitration for Sport or traditional courts.
Australian attorney Amelia Lynch, head of the Sport & Leisure team at law firm Lander & Rogers, says the new national sports tribunal was created to boost efficient and specialist resolution of sporting disputes.
And in Russia, the government and sports teams are working to attract more foreign sports fans – as well as private investment. To this end, officials are – among other things – looking at relaxing visa requirements for foreigners visiting for sporting events.
“(Russian sports teams) need to be more competitive, not just on the field, but commercially,” said attorney Andrey Tereschenko, a partner with Moscow-based law firm Pepeliaev Group. Tereschenko oversaw legal matters for Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup in Sochi.
If one thing is clear about the sports and entertainment industry sector for the coming year, it’s that there will be many opportunities for clients but also challenges. Interested parties will want to rely on experienced legal counsel with a clear understanding on the ever-changing regulations.
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