Sometimes, independent authors and small presses come up against a legal question that can’t be answered easily. It may be determination of copyright in a project with multiple participants, how to protect intellectual property in estate planning, or when it is “fair use” to quote another person’s words.
Since 1976, Washington Lawyers for the Arts has served the performing, literary, media, visual, and interdisciplinary arts. While best known for the pro bono or reduced cost services that they provide to arts organizations, WLA also will help individuals when they are operating on a very limited budget and cannot afford to secure the services of an attorney. Local attorneys, who volunteer or offer their services at reduced cost, will provide specialized legal expertise when such services are not available elsewhere for the artist.
Earlier this year, the locally produced play That’swhatshesaid was served a “cease and desist” notice by publisher Samuel French Inc. Seattle playwright Courtney Meaker had pieced together bits of dialog and stage directions from the several hit plays to show how female characters are commonly presented on stage.
As noted an American Theatre article about the project, the result might be seen as “fair use” of the quoted material as the author was making a critical point about the portrayal of women in contemporary theater. French, and later the Dramatists Play Service, argued that the play infringed on the copyrights of the authors quoted.
Jeff Nelson, a Seattle intellectual property attorney and chair of WLA, represented Meaker pro bono. The WLA also offered a free panel discussion this month with Meaker, members of her creative team, and Nelson to help others in the community understand the intersection of fair use and free speech.
Artists of all types can become a WLA member for $25. This entry level of membership provides regular updates via email, special offers from other community organizations, and a 15% discount on all regular workshops.
Regular legal clinics are offered throughout the year for those with intellectual property and entertainment legal questions.
WLA’s referral program connects artists needing ongoing representation or have legal topics beyond intellectual property or entertainment law with attorneys in the WLA network.