Member Spotlight: Douglas Wood

By Douglas Wood

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 Douglas Wood, formerly with the law firm of Reed Smith LLP, and now enjoying a solo practice in North Carolina after 47 years toiling in “Big Law.”

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

In law school, I focused on intellectual property. I continued focusing on intellectual property while pursuing my LLM. After receiving my LLM, I was very fortunate to get a job at a boutique music and entertainment law firm. The rest is history!

Over time, my practice evolved and now focuses on transactions in the advertising and marketing industry. Examples include media buying, licensing, and endorsements.

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

First, be patient and develop a written plan on how to break into the sector.

Second, be mindful that it is a lot broader than you might think — the area not only includes what you might think of as traditional sports or entertainment but also publishing, marketing, sweepstakes, contests and gaming, sponsorships, naming rights, name, image, and likeness (NIL), and many other areas.

Many law students are interested in the day-to-day life of a sports or entertainment lawyer.  What does your day-to-day practice look like?

As a transactional attorney, I primarily counsel clients either on the phone (including the unfortunate rise of Zoom and other video conferencing) or occasionally in person on their day-to-day issues.  That’s coupled with analyzing deals and writing contracts and memoranda in support of their goals or business needs.

From your perspective, how has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your portion of the sports or entertainment industry?

As a transactional attorney, most of what I do does not require in-person contact with clients. So, COVID-19 had little impact on my practice.  In fact, because so many contractual arrangements were turned upside down due to COVID-19 ramifications, it generated considerable work.

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?

Perhaps more than any other issue, those in the industry — owners, athletes, performers, writers, etc. —need to understand the ramifications of artificial intelligence. It was the primary cause of the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA strikes and will continue to be a challenge for the industry going forward. Clearly, NIL’s is another area that is booming.  It has turned the college athletic scene upside down and leveled the playing field between colleges, athletes, and the NCAA.

What new technologies or resources are you seeing that are impacting your day-to-day, and what new topics can law students and other attorneys keep up to date on to be a value to the legal community in the area of sports or entertainment?

Two words: artificial intelligence. It is the new frontier — particularly for young lawyers.

Are any new laws or regulations, such as the new Name, Image, and Likeness monetization rules in sports, impacting your practice and in what ways?

Name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals are certainly having an impact and is an important area of focus.  But it will eventually settle down. Most of what entertainment lawyers address is evergreen. Specifically, issues surrounding copyrights, trademarks, licensing, performing, and the host of contract issues that accompany all the complexities in the industry do not change.

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

The biggest issue on streaming and new technology is how creators, writers, producers, directors, and performers are going to be paid. Streaming was a primary reason both the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA went on strike in 2023. Going forward, streaming and artificial intelligence will remain a primary focus for the entertainment industry.

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 as it can get, and the licensor wants control. The two are often in conflict with one another.

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

In real estate, they say the three most important things are “location, location, and location.” In entertainment law, it’s “intellectual property, intellectual property, and intellectual property.” Young attorneys need to take as many courses in intellectual property as possible. Keep in mind that intellectual property includes not only traditional areas like copyright, trademarks, and patents, but also licensing and monetization of intellectual property. Intellectual property expertise should be coupled with a solid foundation in contract drafting. So, classes and continuing legal education in contracts are also important for prospective and current entertainment lawyers.

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.