The University of New Hampshire Law Review
Taking Away an Artist’s “Get Out of Jail Free” Card: Making Changes and Applying Basic Contract Principles to California’s Talent Agencies Act
[Excerpt] “From its predecessors dating back to 1913 to the current version, the California Talent Agencies Act of 1978 (“TAA” or “the Act”) has aimed to protect artists from talent agents who would take advantage of them. The Act originally prohibited agents from “sending artists to ‘house[s] of ill fame’ or saloons, or allowing ‘persons of bad character’ to frequent their establishments.” By requiring talent agents to have a license, “the Act establishes detailed requirements for how the licensed talent agencies conduct their business, including a code of conduct, submission of contracts and fee schedules to the state, maintenance of a client trust account, posting of a bond, and prohibitions against discrimination, kickbacks, and certain conflicts of interest.”
However, despite this well-intentioned beginning, the Act no longer binds itself to business realities. Instead, the Act turns a blind eye to the “catch-22” of new artists and their personal managers: without enough success, talent agents are not interested in the artists, but without a talent agent, there is no legal way for the new artist to procure the required employment to find such success. Personal managers frequently face the difficult decision of violating the Act by procuring employment, which then puts their contract in jeopardy because of the illegal procurement. Without procurement in the first place though, there will be no success, nor need for a talent agent.
The California courts’ allowance of a “gotcha” by artists who want to disavow an otherwise valid contract drives poor behavior and does not protect the personal managers who work so diligently to help the artists attain a level of success. If the Act was indeed created to protect artists, and the procurement of employment protects artists’ interests, then personal managers should be protected from artists disavowing contracts. Further, the Marathon Entertainment, Inc. v. Blasi court did not go far enough in its guidance on severability. In that case, the court failed to bring the Act back to a common-sense approach, and this opinion will only continue to open the door to problems in the future. This article will review the Act’s important provisions and the precedent that shaped its administration. Next, this article will address the problems with the Act itself and how it violates basic common law contract principles. Finally, this article will suggest solutions for the Marathon court and the Act itself.”
Gregory Albert, Taking Away an Artist’s “Get Out of Jail Free” Card: Making Changes and Applying Basic Contract Principles to California’s Talent Agencies Act, 8 Pierce L. Rev. 383 (2010), available at http://scholars.unh.edu/unh_lr/vol8/iss3/6