Life happens when you’re busy making other plans!
I never really understood the significance of these words until it happened with me. To start with, I always dreamt of being a litigation lawyer – criminal law to be precise. It used to freak out my dad so much so that he found novel ways for me to continue with the more stable and secure option of being a Chartered Accountant.
After many a argument and shouting matches, he gave me the option to continue with B.Com for at least year and sit for law entrance exams simultaneously. If I got through the top 10 colleges, then only would I get to pursue law. Otherwise, I have a career alternative. At the time it made sense to take up the offer, for I was getting a chance at my dream career. I agreed!
For the next year, I went for B.Com lectures at 6 o’clock in the morning, tuitions in the afternoon followed by preparation for law in the evening. The time allocated for my college assignments was at night! I had no social life and barely saw friends, even family, but it was the one shot I had at my dream!
Thankfully, after a lot of hard work, I successfully managed to get through a couple of national schools in Lucknow and Gujarat and a private one in Pune. I chose Pune. There began my journey towards my dream.
In college, I tried participating in activities like mooting, volunteering for NGOs, etc., and internships with Advocates at High Courts and the Supreme Court that would help me shape my litigation career. However, the fear of missing out or maybe the practicality of choosing a stable job in the profession prevailed over me. I interned with a law firm in my fourth year. They had IP related matters mostly, so I had my first brush with Copyright Laws there.
After graduation, I joined a solicitor firm and started handling their litigation matters as a junior advocate. Within a year, I realised that I am not interested in the kind of work. I had to either join a senior counsel or work in a company as an in-house counsel.
My search for a senior counsel had barely begun when a lawyer I had previously interacted with on behalf of a company called me with a possible job opening in the music company.
Soon, I appeared for the interview with no prior experience or even internship in companies. The CFO of the company asked me some questions about copyright and trademark laws, which I had prepared for prior to the interview. He asked me some industry-based questions which I could not answer for lack of practical knowledge.
I had studied some of the company’s annual reports available online, so I slipped that into the conversation. He also happened to ask me about my copyright internship. I barely remembered the details from 2 years ago! I scraped through enough information to answer his questions satisfactorily.
Within a week I was asked to join them and I ended up working with them for three and a half years after that! The years I worked for this company were the revolutionising years for it – a change in several successful branding exercises and product launches.
From planning incessantly for a career in litigation, I stumbled upon a niche field of media and entertainment I had never really thought about, let alone plan for it. However, my career in the industry has left me with some insights which I would not have gained any other way.
Let me tell you about the possible career opportunities in Media and Entertainment Law:
In Law Firms
There are very few nationalised firms in India who deal with Media and Entertainment Laws. But most of them are based out of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore or Chennai. Law Firms like J. Sagar Associates, Nishith Desai Associates, DSK Legal, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, etc. have dedicated teams for handling media and entertainment law.
The big law firms have teams of lawyers for contracts, compliance, M&A, intellectual property, dispute resolution, intellectual property, data protection and digital forensics, litigation etc.
Then there are boutique law firm like Banana IP, Naik Naik & Co., Phoenix Legal, etc. which deal with media and technology extensively. As the technological advent increases, the face of media, entertainment, advertising and branding changes with it.
All the deals around motion pictures like celebrity contracts,endorsement deals, IP protection, contract for promotional events, permissions for sets and shoots, etc. are all done with the advise of lawyers. Music licensing and distribution, book publishing, IP monetization, anti-piracy practice, IP infringements, etc. are also part of the job.
Apart from litigation, the essential skill required for the role in a law firm is contract drafting and negotiation for the purpose of talent acquisition agreements, non-disclosure agreements, music licensing agreement, etc. As lawyers you need to be updated not only about changing laws and cases, but also understand the working of the client’s business.
In Media and Entertainment Companies
The media houses like Viacom, Balaji Telefilms, Yashraj Films not only create shows and motion pictures for the media like television and film theatres, they have a digital presence on mediums like YouTube and their own website.
Music companies like Saregama, Super Cassettes (T-Series), 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.
Whenever you hear about an Anurag Kashyap film being censored (or even banned) or about the Cobrapost sting on prominent news channels, just know that their in-house counsels are working overtime!
These media houses have their own legal departments which work alongside the business teams to negotiate and draft contracts, acquire and manage talent, litigate and protect their IP. They coordinate with the law firms and lawyers as and when needed to help them understand the legal requirements from a business perspective.
In-house lawyers have to understand the company to a certain depth in order to effectively advise them and protect their interests. Through bridge assignments within the legal departments of a group or a company, in-house counsels can acquire expertise in various sectors on their way to becoming the general counsel.
In the recent controversy around the film Padmavat, the lawyers were working day and night in order to get a favourable order for the release of their motion picture which lasted until the release of the film!
Independent counsels representing the interests of the media and entertainment companies, performers, etc. are the ones appearing before the courts in order to seek necessary relief for them.
Senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi fighting for the freedom of speech and expression in the case of Padmavat; or Priyanka Khimani who represented artists like Sonu Nigam, Lata Mangeshkar and the likes have been an inspiration through their work. The man behind introducing the Amendment Bill to the Copyright Act in 2012 – Kapil Sibal, is one of the few legal experts in the country on media and entertainment laws.
The work of media and entertainment lawyers revolves around balancing their client’s interest and the law. They are the forerunners in protecting our freedom of speech and expression before the highest courts of law. They are the ones protecting the free speech even amidst threats of dire consequences, like in the case of Harish Salve and Karni Sena.
The area of expertise for a media and entertainment lawyer is very unique and is based on industry knowledge and specialised skills. Most law schools do not offer mandatory courses on media and entertainment law. In fact, very few even offer it as an optional subject. Therefore, many a times, law students have to stumble across this particular field unplanned, just like me.
We are a country obsessed with media and entertainment. We get more offended by a movie or meme/comment from a comedian than actual heinous crimes like mob-lynching, political oppression/bullying. This industry will barely slow down in terms of legal disputes. We have an insatiable interest in the different mediums of entertainment like film, web series, music, news channels and papers, etc. Any lawyer fighting for free speech and craving for relevant, exciting (sometimes even controversial) legal disputes: media and entertainment law is for you!