This week we would like you to meet Alissa McCain, Executive Director of Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts (TALA).
1.Explain what your organization does and tell us about your role.
Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts is celebrating its 40thyear of providing business services to artists. Since 1979, TALA’s professional volunteers have assisted countless individual artists and nonprofit organizations in navigating the legal and financial aspects of making a living through creative pursuits. TALA provides artists with access to expert legal and financial guidance, ensuring arts-related businesses are built on a solid foundation.
TALA’s signature program is the facilitation of pro bono referrals to attorney and accountant volunteers for Texas artists and arts nonprofits. Artists and organizations must be financially qualified to participate. TALA offers direct, individual assistance to income eligible artists and nonprofits, located anywhere in the state.
Over 200 attorneys and accountants throughout the state of Texas volunteer their time each year, assisting in routine legal and accounting matters that might otherwise remain unresolved and unrepresented. TALA offers free seminars and workshops throughout the state that anyone may attend regardless of income. TALA clinics and educational programs enable artists to operate their business with sound principles while protecting their artistic product.
2. What is your (and your organization’s) interest in copyright law? How does your organization and/or its constituents rely on copyright law to support their livelihoods?
Copyright issues are one of the top service-related requests that TALA receives. TALA assists artists of all disciplines in understanding their intellectual property rights and teaches them to utilize different ownership qualities for income streams. It is imperative that artists are aware of the benefit of copyright protections and how those protections can offer income longevity.
3. If there was one thing that you wished the public understood about copyright, what would it be?
Issues surrounding co-ownership of copyrights seem to catch many artists off guard. Artists should always think about what they contribute to a piece of art and have an agreement in writing to distinguish ownership. While this may seem like an unnecessary step in the creative process, TALA sees many disputes that could have been prevented with up front clarification. Since copyright litigation can be time intensive and costly, artists often are disheartened when unable to reach a quick and simple resolution to a copyright dispute. So, we try to help prevent such disputes from happening by providing relevant information up front.
4. What is your organization’s biggest copyright-related challenge?
One of TALA’s challenges is creating concise and understandable public education surrounding copyright and how it applies differently in various artistic disciplines. For World Intellectual Property Day 2019, TALA has created two distinct seminars: one that caters to musicians and one for visual and multidisciplinary artists. The seminars cover many of the same concepts. However, the scenarios provided are catered to specific artistic disciplines. The Copyright Alliance does a wonderful job of providing educational content that breaks down various facets of copyright. I highly recommend the education portion of their website if artists have specific questions or are in need of some general copyright guidance.
5. If there was one aspect of copyright law that you could change, what would that be and how would you change it?
In general, copyright laws can be complicated and difficult to understand. Many legislators and public officials do not fully understand copyright protections or their impact on artists. This makes proper enforcement, key changes, and updates of copyright law hard to obtain. As technology advances, copyright law has struggled to keep up with trends and inventions that have permanently changed the creative landscape. It may be time for laws to be re-written and simplified to offer adequate protections. Artists should take note of how copyright law operates within their artistic practice and be prepared to advocate for sensible change.
Thanks to TALA Austin volunteer attorneys Andrea Villarreal and Gwen Seale for a lively discussion on copyright that prompted portions of the content above.
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