As a content creator you will likely be engaging the law at various points in your creative process. The most necessary is when something goes wrong (and from my experience this is usually the first time people speak to a lawyer!).
There are a number of reasons you may seek legal advice in a crisis but here are some of the key ones and some initial observations:
- IP infringement- these are the most common issues content creators come across. This typically involves disputes around using music, art, images, or processes that are owned by a third party. The rule is to check whether you can lawfully use a piece of content before you use it- look for Creative Commons rights and free licences. When things go wrong and you will likely receive a cease and desist for using content that is not your own a licence fee will typically be asked for. Consider negotiating or stripping the IP in dispute from your content to mitigate. In some cases, such as on YouTube, this can put your account at risk so having a process for vetting content prior to use is paramount. If this is an issue obtain legal advice quickly as it may be that an exception such as fair use applies.
- IP ownership disputes- this is a simple, but usually critical, issue of who owns what. When your creating content and using third party software or your employers tools for example, issues arise as to who owns the created work. If you have a contract check it beforehand. There will usually be a clause covering who owns created IP in certain circumstances. Ensure this is in your favour for example, if you are creating a software package or graphic in your free time. Many would think you would own the rights in the created content however, many gaming companies have clauses which specify created IP will be vested in them. Falling afoul of these can be costly so be sure to check or arrange to leave the business beforehand to avoid rights conflicts.
- Non-payment of fees- Failing to receive payment of fees for work is hopefully a sparse occurrence. But if you do have a customer falling into arrears a lot can be proactively done. A debt payment plan can help you manage the situation on an ongoing basis. You can ask for terms to be signed in the event of non-payment providing for partial completion. For claims of money under £200,000 consider the Small Claims Court if you are UK based.
- Employment or independent contractor issues- If you engage third parties to assist you in your content creation you are likely looking to document the terms of that engagement. Here it is important to be clear- are they an employee or independent contractor? Employees may have greater dismissal rights so it is important to get this right. It is also important to have policies around, sickness, leave, travel, benefits and grievances. Having these in place beforehand allows you to manage your workplace holistically. In many cases dispute revolve around the contracts put in place so have a specialist consider these.
- Regulatory issues- the regulations you have to comply with will vary greatly depending on the nature and context of the content you create. Aiming content at children? Consider the Child Online Protection of Privacy Act (COPPA). Using data modelling? Consider the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Compliance with these usually requires jumping through regulatory hoops. Engage a good lawyer to cover them off. If its too late you could be facing fines or sanctions. Having a process of documenting compliance is important to ensure this is covered off. If its too late a good lawyer should have advice to mitigate risk and make submissions to strengthen your position.