The Law of Entertainment and Broadcasting

This is an ambitious work which seeks to cover a variety of topics affecting entertainment and broadcasting law in 530 pages of text.

Vincent Nelson approaches his task by dividing the book into six parts: entertainment, contracts, copyright and related rights, equitable remedies, defamation, regulation of television and radio, and consumer protection. As he is a barrister a large part of the book is devoted to the legal process, including injunctions, passing off and other remedies and defamation.

The chapters on broadcasting mainly set out the provisions of the Broadcasting Act 1990 and the functions of the Independent Television Commission, the BBC and the Radio Authority.

As Nelson recognises in the preface, there are omissions in the areas he covers, but he places too much emphasis on areas which other works cover in a level of detail he cannot hope to emulate with his broad brush approach.

An example is copyright, which is the cornerstone of entertainment law but is covered in a level of detail more useful to the practitioner in, say, Copinger on Copyright. Because the law in the book is current as of October 1994, two important changes in copyright law which have occurred since that date are mentioned either in passing or not at all.

The first is the EC Term Directive (only mentioned in footnotes) which extends the copyright term to 70 years from the death of an author and is now implemented in UK law.

The second is the UK implementation of the EC Rental and Lending Directive (not mentioned at all) with its problems of interpretation of “equitable remuneration”.

Nelson writes clearly and concisely on the areas he covers. However, his stated aim is to write a legal text which is useful to the practitioner.

As a practitioner specialising in film and television production, financing and distribution, I found some of the summaries of basic law a useful aide memoire and the occasional suggestion constructive, such as how to deal with the industry custom of “agreeing to negotiate in good faith” as it is affected by the House of Lords' decision in Walford v Miles.

But on the whole, because the areas covered by Nelson are practised by specialists, the contents of his book for them would be fairly simplistic. He recognises the limitations of his work by frequently stating an area is “beyond the scope of this work” and by cross referencing to specialist texts. His book may serve as a useful introduction to students interested in these fields and could sit alongside specialist texts in a practitioner's library as a starting point for research.

I would have thought a mention of laws or practice affecting new or multi-media applications to have been appropriate, particularly as far as acquisition or retention of rights by a film or TV producer is concerned.

Despite Nelson's valiant attempts to cover a wide range of issues in his book, I question the relevance of and the audience for a single bound volume covering the law of entertainment and broadcasting.