Author Archives: Gordon Firemark

Happy Thanksgiving, giving thanks.

I want to take a few moments to wish all of my readers, listeners, colleagues, clients and friends, a very happy Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving holiday is a good time to consider all that we are thankful for, and to express that gratitude.

Personally, I am blessed with a marvelous family.  My  beautiful wife, three wonderful children, parents, sisters, cousins and the rest  are among the most important people in my life, and for their health, happiness and well-being, (and my own) I am truly thankful.

Similarly, I am grateful to all of my friends and colleagues for their friendship, support, referrals and help in growing my practice.  To my clients, I give thanks for your continued patronage, and for making my work interesting, enjoyable and fruitful.

Finally, I must give thanks to our wonderful country.  For all its flaws, the United States remains a great country.  It truly is a land of opportunity, and for the opportunities presented to me as a citizen, I am grateful.

May your Thanksgiving holiday be filled with laughter, joy and warm feelings  for all.

Gobble Gobble!

Contracts must prohibit sexual harassment in the entertainment workplace.

Contracts must prohibit sexual harassment in the entertainment workplace.

It's a tragedy that the headline of this story even needed to be written.  But it did.  Desperately.

By now, we've all heard about the truly despicable behavior of some hollywood heavyweights. Men in power abusing that power to take advantage of, demean and humiliate women.

And we're learning just how persuasive this kind of thing has been throughout the entertainment industry.  Thanks to the courage and tenacity of a handful of prominent women in the business, the dirty little (big?) secret is out in the open.  And now, brave women everywhere are now standing up to be counted with a rallying cry of “#metoo”.

Now, I can't say I'm shocked at the fact that this kind of thing was going on.  The so-called “casting couch” has been a part of Hollywood folklore since the earliest days of the movie business.  (and the theatre, vaudeville, etc.)  What IS shocking to me is just how pervasive  this offensive abuse of power has been, even in the modern era.  I had no idea that it was still  happening to so many women, so often.

My heart hurts just thinking about it.

I was raised to respect women.  Respect, appreciate, support, encourage, empower, embolden them.  Yes.  Demean, abuse, assault, intimidate, coerce?  Hell no.

It's time for everyone in this business, men and women alike, to take steps to prevent this kind of thing from continuing.  Speaking out and denouncing the conduct is a good step, but actions speak louder than words. So, here's my call to action to all my clients, fellow lawyers, and to the entire community:

Every deal, every transaction, every business activity must,  from this day forward , confront the issue of sexual harassment head-on and include a provision declaring sexual harassment unacceptable, a breach of contract, and grounds for immediate termination.  

And,  we should go further, requiring of all our personnel, that they report any suspected sexual harassment they witness, on pain of termination.   Like this:

“Sexual harassment will not be tolerated and  is grounds for immediate dismissal.  If you are a victim or witness to suspected sexual harassment you should report it to the Producer immediately for investigation and corrective action.”​

​Such provisions have been common in below-the-line deals, crew deal memos, and the like, but they've largely been absent from the deals with Producers, Directors,  Designers, and Performers.  And those are the people with, and thus most able to misuse power.

Contracts used to include a so-called “Morals Clause”, which (theoretically )protected the studios and their business by allowing termination when they were subjected to scorn or negative perception as a result of employee's public acts, appearance, or behavior.  But these provisions have largely fallen out of favor over the past few decades for various reasons.  And, to my knowledge, these clauses were rarely invoked in cases involving sexual (mis)conduct. (at least where heterosexual conduct was involved).

But sexual harassment IS immoral, and it needs to have consequences.

So, it's time for a change.

We need to address this as a community.   Yes, talking about harassment is uncomfortable.  It should be.  We need to talk about this issue until it's no longer an issue.

“We need to talk about this issue until it's no longer an issue.”

All of our contracts need to explicitlyy say that harassment will get you fired.  No matter who you are.

If you're an employer, you need to implement a policy, and back it up by requiring adherence in all contracts.  And then, you need to actually enforce the policy.  Every time.  No exceptions, no retaliation against whistleblowers.

If you're an employee, you should expect a work environment that's free from harassment.  Not just harassment when you're a victim, but harassment of anyone, at any time.  That means it's incumbent upon each of us to stand up and say something, whenever we suspect harassment.

And finally, if you're a perpetrator of sexual harassment, STOP.    We won't look the other way ever again.

That's not the way we roll around here.  Not anymore.

Episode 89 – you’re a mean one, Dr. Seuss

Episode 89 – you’re a mean one, Dr. Seuss

Play

Show notes are located at http://entertainmentlawupdate.com. The Latest episode of my Entertainment Law podcast, Entertainment Law Update, is now available for your enjoyment. Listen here, or subscribe and download in your favorite podcast listening app.

Here's what we talked about..

1 SCREEN ACTORS GUILD URGES JUDGE TO SAVE AGE-CENSORSHIP LAW TO COMBAT RAMPANT BIAS
2 FOLLOW UP: MONKEY SELFIE SETTLES (KINDA)
3 “OH MICKEY” SINGER FILES LAWSUIT FOR RIGHT OF PUBLICITY
4 STEINBECK HEIRS CASE VERDICT
5 2ND CIRCUIT: GRINCH PLAY PARODY IS FAIR USE
6 FACEBOOK TO PAY RECORD COMPANIES (Jackie)
7 FACEBOOK TO PAY MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO MUSIC INDUSTRY TO PROTECT USERS FROM COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT
8 APPELLATE COURT HOLDS THAT ROLLING STONE WILL FACE DEFAMATION LAWSUIT OVER UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA RAPE STORY
9 GAWKER Bankruptcy Judge: Slapp not viable in Federal Court)
10 WE SHALL OVERCOME GOES INTO PUBLIC DOMAIN
11 FILMCHELLA TRADEMARK LAWSUIT

Register your DMCA Agent by December 31 or risk losing your “safe-harbor” protection against copyright infringement lawsuits.

Earlier this year, the copyright office finalized the plan to modernize the process for registering your DMCA Agent.  Registration offers important protections for all operators of online service providers.  This includes you if you have a website, blog, podcast or other online presence.  Operators of sites with a registered DMCA Agent can benefit from a “safe… Continue Reading

The Equifax Breach, and what you should do to protect your credit

While this post is not, strictly speaking, on the “Entertainment Law” beat,  several clients asked me about it, and I addressed their concerns in my e-newsletter (sign up in the sidebar).  On recommendation from a friend, I’m reposting it here as a service to readers. DISCLAIMER: I’m not a data-security expert, and the above should… Continue Reading

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