Guest blog by Board of Directors of The WLA
The COVID-19 crisis has prompted the State of Washington to issue stay-at-home orders and implement the shutdown of all non-essential businesses and gatherings. The impact of these actions on public life and the economic life of artists and the businesses that rely on them cannot be understated. We know our state’s creative community is resilient, and undoubtedly will recover after the restrictions are lifted. Even so, these prohibitions already have raised numerous legal issues that gravely imperil the careers and longevity of countless artistic enterprises. Artists, venue owners, musicians, theater companies, and restauranteurs, among others, face perplexing issues such as contract enforcement, rent payments, and intellectual property protection.
At Washington Lawyers for the Arts (WLA), we’re working diligently to maintain our longstanding support of artists and arts organizations, including, for example, partnering with the City of Seattle Office of Film + Music and the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture to reach out to creative communities. During this unnerving time, WLA continues to offer numerous services statewide to support people in need of legal assistance, consistent with our role as a non-profit organization long dedicated to bridging the worlds of law and art. In this post, we outline some basic legal issues that result from the crisis and provide information about how we can help.
WLA offers free legal clinics for artists and arts professionals to discuss legal issues with attorneys. Each appointment lasts 30 minutes and includes at least one intellectual property lawyer. The clinics address a wide variety of matters related to arts-related legal issues, such as contracts, licensing, and IP. Through April, clinics are held remotely in partnership with the Seattle University School of Law. Starting in May (and continuing for the foreseeable future), WLA’s monthly clinics will be held by phone or videoconference during the third week of the month. More details will follow.
Clinic appointments are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. Artists and arts organizations should visit https://thewla.org/covid19-resources and complete and submit the online appointment request provided at the bottom of the page.
IMPACTS OF THE COVID CRISIS
Restrictions on public gatherings and the service sector have caused a near-total closure of bars, restaurants, performance venues, music and art festivals, cafes, and so many other elements of society upon which artists depend for audiences and employment. Many have lost opportunities to share their work and many have lost the work they depend on to cover their expenses. This experience of loss is accompanied by unforeseen, and thus unplanned-for, legal issues that do not have easy solutions.
For most, loss of employment income is not accompanied by rent forgiveness. For some, performance contracts have been canceled without compensation for costs undertaken to prepare. Others, especially those who themselves employed workers, feel a sense of responsibility to help the community and to honor their legal commitments, but are limited by the economic consequences of the COVID crisis.
Not all these challenges can be solved with legal assistance. For some, however, WLA is ready to assist with contract interpretation, intellectual property protection, business formation, and other questions to help Washington’s artists weather this crisis.
WLA also offers attorney referrals for artists and arts organizations seeking legal advice beyond a 30-minute clinic appointment. Fee arrangements are left to each client and attorney and might range from free services to reduced fees to full-fee representation depending on the client’s financial resources and the attorney’s wishes. WLA does not get involved in these fee negotiations.
Referrals are requested using the webform available at the following address: https://www.thewla.org/legal-referrals
As the crisis continues, WLA is developing its online programming of Arts Legal Workshops for artists and attorneys. Each workshop will feature a legal expert providing an in-depth look at a legal issue relevant to artists and arts organizations. For example, WLA currently is planning a workshop covering contract defenses for venues and performers affected by the closure of performance venues and banning of public gatherings.
If you have a suggestion for a workshop topic, please email your idea to firstname.lastname@example.org.