A new law has been proposed in California State which could have significant knock-on effects on entertainment industry labor practices. The bill seeks to reduce the power record labels and studios have to bind artists to lengthy contract windows. BLAKE & WANG P.A entertainment law firms Los Angeles have all the information you need about this new proposal.

Reducing lengthy ‘exclusivity’ clauses

Should it be successful- and the bill is firmly backed by SAG-AFTRA and the Music Artists Coalition, alongside the Black Music Action Coalition and Songwriters of North America- this will limit how long affected artists can be held to exclusivity options in their contracts. An addition to the proposal wants to allow recording artists the freedom to ditch contracts after 7 years without the financial risk of damages being pursued. Introduced by Democratic State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, it’s being addressed under the name ‘the Free Artists from Industry Restrictions’, or ‘AB 1385’

The sticky matter of the ‘hold’

Holds are, of course, nothing new in the industry. Yet we’ve seen increasing protest from managers and agents that the length of these holds is increasing, while the financial value of the work artists is being held to is declining. 2-year holds are not uncommon. This can severely curtail an artist's ability to work in-between the filming of a series. This wasn’t too financially punitive when the 22-episode season was in play, but modern series are typically far shorter, with far less earning potential.

Forcing studios to produce quicker

The proposed legislation would need studios to produce new episodes or exercise talent options within a calendar year of the prior season. As the most typical industry contract for series is per-episode, this, in turn, reduces the time actors must keep themselves ‘off the market’ without pay coming in.

California already has a statute, known as the ‘7-year rule”, limiting the length of time a service employment contract can be enforced. Yet, since 1987, while recording artists can still leverage this statute, they can still be pursued for damages by the label relating to unreleased work. Effectively, this locks artists into their contracts. The new legislation also aims to prevent such damages from being enforceable.

Older laws called ‘outdated’

As Lawmaker Gonzalez states, the landscape of the entertainment industry has changed dramatically in recent years- yet laws from decades ago remain, giving labels and studios a huge stranglehold on artists’ ability to work. She is on record stating, “No worker should ever be bound to an unreasonable contract that holds them back from making decisions about their own livelihood.”

Needless to say, the bill will not pass without strong opposition from the record labels and studios. Regardless of that fact, the supporters of the bill likely have a good point. Today we see hundreds of networks seeking content to fill them, and one-sided contracts can keep artists from working with anyone but one powerful label or studio for incredibly long periods. At a time where choice is becoming ever-more important globally, it’s probably time for a shake-up in how we do business. BLAKE & WANG P.A Entertainment attorney will be watching this develop with interest.

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