Attorney Spotlight: Erin Basinger

By Erin Basinger Erin, a white woman with red hair, wears a black turtleneck, red jacket and brown glasses.

Throughout the year, the Sports & Entertainment Law Section will be conducting interview spotlights of its members to showcase the careers of the section members. This month, the section is spotlighting Erin Basinger of Basinger Law, PLLC.

What brought you into sports or entertainment law, and what area of sports or entertainment law do you currently practice?

My background is in fashion, and I always loved my mass media law classes. As I began to make friends in the entertainment industry, I realized how much the entertainment industry intersects with my love of intellectual property work in the fashion industry. So, I wanted to combine those two things and build a career I love.

For those interested in practicing in sports or entertainment law, what is a piece of advice you would share with them?

Networking can get you anywhere—even if it is not legal related. My first legal internship was from a referral I received from friends who own an entertainment show, whom I met at a motorcycle rally. You truly never know where good connections may pop up.

What new considerations do your clients (such as team owners, professional athletes and coaches or producers, talent, etc.) need to consider in the next year or so because of current events?

The Screen Actors Guild contract negotiations and the rise of artificial intelligence have become valid concerns from both a legal and personal perspective. We are entering an era where actors may have to think of including the right to recreate their image through artificial intelligence in their wills and estate documents. We are seeing deceased actors being recreated on screen—forcing families to decide the actor’s intent. Even actors who are still alive face the risk of recreation, and attorneys should consider these issues in any contracts moving forward.

How has streaming and new technologies affected sports or entertainment from a legal perspective?

Streaming caused quite a fuss last year as it played a large part in the writers’ strike. Streaming services bring a new level of profit and loss, given their vast collection of “made-for-TV” movies and exclusive shows that do not have a residual profit in the same way other movies and shows might. You may pay for a streaming service for a minimal fee in a month, and four people watch from your account versus four people paying for a movie ticket. The profits are not the same, and companies must make up the costs. This causes numerous issues when you have Emmy-nominated productions with writers who cannot afford to live.

What sort of licensing issues do you deal with frequently in your practice?

The biggest issues in licensing are the scope of rights granted, the length of the term (and any options), approval rights, compensation, and post-term usage. On each, the licensee wants as much leeway, and the licensor wants control. The two often conflict.

What areas of intellectual property law impact your practice the most? What classes or CLEs would you recommend to our members to take if they are interested in your field?

Trademark and copyright are the big hitters. I am constantly intersecting my intellectual property work with entertainment law and promoting both to bring in artists who I meet. If I can draft a live performance contract and register all their music for them, then I’ve made a client for life.

Continuing Legal Education courses (CLEs) on the new name, image, and likeness laws are extremely helpful. It is still so new, and it can be a wealth of information. As someone who owns their own firm, the trust CLEs are extremely beneficial. Trust compliance can be daunting, and knowing the ins and outs is a must.

Does an individual seeking to work in this area need to be barred in any other state, or would you recommend such? Are there laws or regulations in other states that materially affect your practice in sports and entertainment?

It is not a need, but I highly recommend it. If you work as an in-house counsel, you will not need another license. However, if you want to work in the private sector, it can be the difference between full-time sports and entertainment work or part-time sports and entertainment work. Admittedly, I do not have 100% entertainment work, but I am recently licensed in New York to obtain that dream. When I began looking for work in the entertainment law sector, much of what I found was that I could do remote work for companies in the big entertainment cities, but they wanted me to be licensed there. With a dual license, you open yourself up to many more possibilities for work, and North Carolina having the Uniform Bar Exam sets you up extremely well to get a second license rather easily.

Do you know a sports or entertainment law attorney who deserves to be featured on our blog? Communications Chair Landis Barber would love to hear from you.