Is Today’s Big Money in Cross-Media Licensing?

SXSW music panel. Katrina Carden McMullan, Bill Hochberg (moderator), Jessica Darraby.
[Official description:]( This panel will explore legal and business issues arising from nontraditional uses of music-related intellectual property (music and graphic art copyrights, trademarks, band names and rights of publicity), such as for restaurants, advertising campaigns, gift book publishing, technology sub-branding, and licensing of music and music-related art for toys, games, sports products and even personal hygiene products like toothbrushes.
[Note: as this panel began at 3pm and my previous panel ended at 3.20pm, I missed the first part of this discussion.]
It’s kind of sweet, in a way, that the very last SXSW panel I’m attending (at least for 2008) is on an issue that’s always been close to my heart – intellectual property. I studied Law because I was interested in copyright, especially as I did creative writing and songwriting and experienced the pain of having my own work stolen before (by someone I once considered my best friend – but that’s another story).
Often, artistes don’t realise that a lot of their collaterals can breach intellectual property laws. Or they think their rights have been infringed, want to sue then realise they didn’t register their intellectual property, making it difficult to win. The lawyers’ advice: Ensure that all your trademarks are registered before you proceed with a lawsuit.
Hochberg notes that big artistes do recognise the issues better. He quotes Gene Simmons who said, “I’m not in a rock band. I’m in a rock *brand*.” Darraby notes that people don’t just buy with their ears – they also buy with their eyes.
Carden McMullan is from Mattel’s in-house legal department, and describes how her company has agreements with movie studios to produce toys. The lawyer’s approach is to limit exposure and therefore liability. Conversely, Darraby, who represents artistes, says talent managers are trying to help their clients get more exposure. They’d want to splinter the IP rights so that their clients own the rights for various mediums.
Darraby feels that lawyers need to listen more to what their clients need to do, instead of having a standard, ‘one size fits all’ approach. She’s seen lawyers not wanting to take on international distribution rights.
While this was a small panel, it was good to have panelists from both sides of the playing field offering opposing perspectives.