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Backstage at the ReaderFest last week, one of the people floating around behind the scenes was a gentleman whose life has been interwoven with the music community, Brian Lukasavitz. Since I have met Brian, who is an advocate for musicians and artists, my lawyer joke days are over. His law practice focuses on arts, entertainment, and media law. He works on behalf of artists to protect and promote their creations, whether it is forming limited
liability companies or non-profit organizations, copyright and trademark, or licensing and contractual agreements.
In addition to making presentations on Music Law education, he’s also the founder of Blues-ology 101 and the Blues Federation, performing and teaching the history of the blues to K-12 and adult students to preserve the true American art form that is the blues.
EN: How did you become interested in doing legal work for artists, who do not have the big bank accounts that big corporations have?
BL: The single largest export from the United States is intellectual property, whether it is trademarked, copyright, or patented work. It has always been my belief that artists get easily exploited in the marketplace. I see myself as an advocate and a service provider. Artists often have difficulty establishing value for their talents and are often faced with uncertainty as to how best to protect their creative works. It is my philosophy and mission to help establish value and to protect the interests of the artists. Corporations have plenty of resources to advocate for them. I went to law school to learn how to protect the rights of my own works and those of my friends.
EN: How do you help artists determine value for their work?
BL: The primary way I provide benefit to artists and the organizations they form is through negotiation. I work with a network of agencies internationally to try to establish opportunities for artists in various mediums to market the value of their works. The first step is to protect their work through copyright or trademark laws. I also help artists establish entities, whether they are for-profit or nonprofit organizations, to minimize liability. Having worked in the arts and entertainment for over 10 years prior to law school, I am familiar with common issues that arise for struggling artists and organizations.
EN: You have a special passion for and background training in blues music. How did this come about?
BL: Like many blues fans, I “found” the blues through rock ’n roll. I was raised listening to early rock ’n roll and rhythm and blues. The first music that moved me was that of Buddy Holly. I became obsessed with the music. I got into people like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Little Richard. I had a friend who handed me a couple of cassette tapes (for those who remember pre-digital technology) of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters—I never looked back. While my friends listened to Def Leppard and AC/DC, I was checking out people like B.B. King and
EN: What are some ways artists and other creative people can protect their ideas?
BL: I get this question a lot: “I have a great idea for ‘X’,” whether it is a film, a book, a song, etc. “How do I protect it?” Under copyright law, you cannot protect an “idea,” you need a “Creative Expression.” In fact, the three elements of a copyright-able work are that it be “original,” “fixed,” and an “expression.” A creative “idea” is not sufficient. It must be fixed, whether written down or recorded. My advice to someone with a great idea is to create something with it. Turn the idea into something. One of my newer clients had an idea for a TV show. He wrote the screenplay. The idea of the show could not be protected, but the script in the form of a written creative expression is now protect by copyright. Once it is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, he can begin shopping the script to potential producers.
EN: What was your connection to the Phantom Galleries Superior, and how did that come about?
BL: I have a friend who is one of the organizers of the Phantom Galleries project. We were talking about the project and we discussed creating a contract to help clarify the agreement between the individual artists, the organizers, and the shops and storefronts that would serve as venues. It is my belief that an attorney’s role in contract drafting is not to confuse those who are signing the agreement, but rather to help clarify the expectations for all involved. Contracts are meant to memorialize an agreement between two or more individuals or entities. The contract should establish all the relevant ideas to the agreement, help clarify disagreements, and establish a plan to resolve those disagreements.