It is hard to gauge when you are deep into something. For me it was the same with my legal profession. I stumbled upon media and entertainment law by chance and stayed with it for three years! At the time I was doing the work as it came to me. I never said no to any work that came across my desk and went and asked for more if needed. The aim was to learn more each day.
My peers and batch-mates were either litigating with senior counsels or working in big law firms on M&A laws or as technology lawyers, etc. Sometimes when they asked me about my work, it seemed they thought media and entertainment law was a cakewalk. They used to emphasize how important their work was and I was always left wondering. What was I doing?
I have never been more wrong.
I did not understand what value-addition was made to me as a lawyer while I was in the organisation. Only when I stepped back and took a hard look at myself, I realised that there were so many benefits for me being a media and entertainment lawyer.
Is Media and Entertainment Industry the Next Big Thing?
Is media law a viable career option? A lot of law students have this one question when they first venture out into researching this particular sector. Well, I have something that may help you gain some insights about the industry. You can access this article on the whether media law is a viable career option here.
To those who question the significance of the media and entertainment industry, I would simply say this: a recent news report stated that the Indian media and entertainment industry would be valued at about INR 2 trillion by 2020!
In 2017, the digital media had a 29.4% growth while TV media grew 11.2%, the film media had grown about 27 %. Even the so-called dying print media had a growth of 3% to reach INR 303 billion!
With such growth, which even surpasses the present GDP of the country, one can imagine the growth and prospects involved in the media and entertainment industry.
Whether it is talent acquisition, advertising, films or music production or acquisition, this industry is not showing any signs of slowing down. With Netflix and Amazon trying to shift audiences from theatres to online streaming, they had set aside INR 2000 crores each for acquiring content and increase subscribers in their Indian market.
In November 2017, Amazon Prime Video had 9.5 million active subscribers and Netflix had 4.2 million a little. They have both been focused on the Indian market with Netflix introducing popular originals like “Sacred Games” and “Lust Stories” and Prime Video acquiring catalogue of popular Bollywood movies like “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” and other big banner movies apart from introducing original webisodes by popular Indian stand up comedians such as “Biswa Mast Aadmi”, “Keep It Real”, “Comicstaan” and “Pushpavalli”.
With an industry this big, the commercials involved is huge. Therefore, to iron-out the creases most M&E companies have a need for in-house and external legal experts all the time. That makes it an extremely lucrative opportunity to pursue a career in media and entertainment law. Since most law schools do not have this specialised law in their curriculums, the best way to understand media laws would be to pursue online courses on media and entertainment law.
Career Opportunities in Media and Entertainment Law
There are big opportunities in law firms, in media and entertainment companies as well as litigation in the field.
There are music companies like Saregama, Super Cassettes (T-Series), motion pictures banners like Disney, Viacom, Balaji Telefilms, Sony, Yash Raj Films, etc., distribution companies like Eros, Shemaroo, Reliance Entertainment, etc., are also venturing into the production of motion pictures and shows. Companies in print media like Kasturi & Sons Ltd. (the Hindu), Bennett Coleman and Co. Ltd. (The Times Group), HT Media (Hindustan Times) also have a huge reach and digital presence.
There are very few nationalised firms in India who deal with media and entertainment laws like Sai Krishna & Associates, Naik Naik & Co., Anand and Anand & Khimani, etc. They have dedicated teams for handling media and entertainment law.
To know more about career opportunities in media and entertainment law, you can read here.
Benefits of Being a Media and Entertainment Lawyer
As a former media and entertainment lawyer, I feel I have greatly benefitted by the work I did. Not only did it give me the skills as an in-house media lawyer, it also gave me the following attributes which I will be ever grateful for:
Keeping myself updated
Media laws are ever-evolving. With the digitalisation storming every aspect of the industry from print media, motion pictures, music, television, digital media, the laws are trying to keep up with it.
There are newer challenges being brought forward each day. Whether to include the internet companies under the term ’broadcasters’ to ascertaining artistes’ rights over their work, everything is evolving as we speak. Earlier artistes’ had limited rights to royalties, the scope of which has now broadened to give ownership rights to musical artistes. Broadcasting was a term that was limited to television and radio broadcasting, etc. It has now evolved to internet companies and they fall under the same umbrella. There’s even a lawsuit against ‘Sacred Games’ for defaming former PM Rajiv Gandhi!
To keep up with such developments, one has to develop a certain level curiosity and keep on learning. The task at hand is that the newspapers may cover one angle of a news, but for a lawyer he/she has to delve into the finer points behind the story.
I remember finding out that a law or regulation has changed from my evening news feed or morning newspaper. I could not even enjoy the Page 3 stories because I was busy checking out who launched an infringing song that day!
It made things difficult initially, but in the end it made me stay vigilant and keep an eye out amidst the daily pile of news and stories. I had to stay and keep others updated via email chain about the latest development in law or industry.
There are not many courses related to media and entertainment law specifically out there and as previously mentioned even law colleges teach them as optional papers, or in some cases don’t teach this as a subject at all. The reason behind this is could possibly be the lack of subject specialists in this field. However, you have the option of reading newspapers, journals, doing media law courses, etc. to increase your practical knowledge of the industry.
Thinking on my feet
Those who know me will attest to the fact that I don’t jump up to my feet very often. But, working in the media industry, I had to make quick decisions about things. Initially I could rely on my superiors to guide me, but not for too long.
My work involved, among other things, copyright infringements on YouTube. Now YouTube has a very user-friendly takedown policy for infringing content. At the time, one of the methods was for the complainant to show a court order within 10 days of takedown notice or the content would be reinstated.
Within my first week I had to not only learn about copyright laws, but also the Google policies well enough to instruct and assist our external counsels on behalf of the company. I was asked to do the groundwork, collect evidentiary support and binstruct the counsels. Then the counsels went to drafting and strategising. The tough part was getting an order within 10 days of the notice. As we all know, our legal system is not known for the speedy reliefs, except in case of urgencies. So we needed to move exceptionally fast and find a judge who would see our copyright infringement as an urgency!
With a lot of work of some very capable people, we managed getting the order in time and pulling down the infringing content. The entire episode inadvertently taught me to make swift decisions and to begin thinking on my feet!
One of the most important lesson and probably a life lesson in my case, as a media lawyer, was the understanding of interpersonal relations. As a junior advocate, I had only met senior lawyers who were frankly quite intimidating for a fresher. But when I started working for the company, the dynamics changed.
Even if a lawyer was senior to me, I had to instruct them keeping in mind the best interests of the company. Without realising my approach towards them changed and it became more friendly. Similarly, I had to approach the heads of various departments for legal queries or information from time to time. The intimidation soon wore off and it improved my interpersonal skill. It helped me voice my legal opinions more clearly and put forth the suggestions which needed to be applied.
The bosses also tend to trust your opinions when you are confident about them. It is an important skill – the art of handling people. You can learn the laws and the ways of the trade, etc. But unless you learn how to work as a team with people from different departments, your work will suffer. The legal experts are usually very evidence based and tend to ask for more information. So they might have to extract necessary information from people who may not even realise that they have it.
Niche field of law
The best thing about the media and entertainment law is the exclusivity. There are not many lawyers out there in the industry as is the requirement. The areas of media and entertainment law is extremely nuanced and requires well trained experts. The commercials of any dealing with respect to acquisition, production, etc is big enough to interest most lawyers.
You will find the opportunity to perform a multitude of tasks which will enhance your skill sets. One may learn the much needed skills like drafting of contract, negotiation, dispute resolution, advising the management and other departments, know the basics of litigation, maintaining management information systems, etc. which are crucial for any lawyer.
This is one of the reasons that big media houses look for experienced people from the industry when hiring. The training period of the employees can be cumbersome. On top of it as the years progress, the industry offers sizeable remunerations for experts in the industry.
According to me the lesser known thing about the media industry is that they work hard and have fun too. There is a more creative and free vibe around even in the offices. There is an amazing work-life balance that is amiss at law firms.
To me distance from the media and entertainment industry has made me realise the value of all my learning there. The industry is ever evolving which needs constant learning on part of the lawyers. There is no boredom in the industry which is built on media and entertainment.
Media and entertainment law is the next big thing for all the lawyers out there.
So get on board now!