Archive for June 7th, 2023

What Are Contracts for?; Non-Profit By-Laws Made Simple; Are Union Strikes Force Majeure events?; Artist Visa Updates

Wednesday, June 7th, 2023


Performing Arts Division

June 7, 2023 


• What Are Contracts For? 

• Non-Profit Laws Made Simple 

• Are Union Strikes Force Majeure Events? 

• Artist Visa Updates


Legal Issue of the Month:

What Are Contracts For??? 

It’s no secret that a vast expanses of artists, venues, managers, presenters, and agents prefer to have engagement contracts with all the “fun stuff” (dates, fees, travel, repertoire, etc) confirmed and signed on the front and the “terms and conditions” left alone, shunned, cold, abandoned, and forsaken on the back. Such “terms and conditions” are often dismissed as “just all the legal stuff” or “the legalese” or “stuff we had a lawyer draft for us years ago and we have no idea what it means, but we can’t change it.”

First, whether it’s the time of the sound check, 4 bags of raspberry Haribo gummy bears the Artist wants in the dressing room, or the number of comp ticket, everything put in a contract becomes “legal stuff.” Second, though, indeed, boring (even for me), the “legalese” typically addresses important issues such as whether or not the venue can make an archival recording and what they can do with it, rights and licenses, cancellation terms and conditions, who’s responsible if someone gets injured, what constitutes force majeure/Acts of God (remember how everyone suddenly started reading those for the first time during COVID?), and other issues that everyone ignores until something goes horribly wrong, at which point they all start arguing over what they assumed these terms meant.
A contract in and of itself will not protect you. Contracts are not self-enforcing. There is no scenario in which a signed paper talisman with the right magic words will allow you to sleep embraced in the amble bosom of self-delusion that everyone will do what they are supposed to do, people will not act in their own self-interest and still claim the moral high-ground, and nothing can go wrong. Signatures do not guarantee that dates will not get cancelled even if the contract specifically says it is non-cancellable or even that you will get the fee everyone agreed upon.
If a date gets cancelled or you do not get paid, your signed contract merely becomes a coupon redeemable for a lawsuit to enforce it. However, are you really going to sue anyone? Is there such a significant amount of money at stake that it’s worth the cost and time, financially as well as emotionally? Are you willing to subsidize a trial lawyer’s $11,000 Japanese NEOREST toilet just for the self-satisfaction of proving a point? Do you ever want to work with that venue or artist again?
So why bother? What are contracts for?
Contracts are for managing expectations, both your own and the other party’s, by spelling out ALL of your concerns and requirements (not just the “fun stuff”) before music is composed, airline tickets are purchased, or recordings made. Contracts are for discovering and discussing unexpressed assumptions. Contracts are for planning and assessment. Contracts are for reading and discussion. Contracts are for knowing what the other party is and is not willing or able to do, and then deciding whether you can compromise or whether you are willing to proceed and accept the risks. Contracts are for starting a conversation and ending in a relationship.
If you’re just tossing unread papers back and forth through Docusign so you or your contract administrator can tick that box off the list, don’t complain when the artist trashes the dressing room and refuses to perform upon failing to find their gummy bears. 

Dear Law and Disorder:

Actual questions we get asked and the answers people actually don’t want

“Non-Profit By-Laws Made Simple” 

Dear Law & Disorder:
We are forming a non-profit. Can you recommend a good template for by-laws? We just want to keep it simple so we can get it set up right away and get started. We’ve already got some people willing to donate as well as serve on our board.
Aside from an outhouse erected on a popsicle stick over a tidal bore, non-profit institutions are, perhaps, the most precarious and dysfunctional of all structures ever conceived within which to conduct business. Without a strong set of by-laws, carefully and thoughtfully crafted to address your unique mission, stakeholders, goals, and challenges, your non-profit is likely to perish from such commonly fatal non-profit diseases as Foundersitis, Administrative Staff Infection, Systemic Committee Infarction, Micromanageitis, Consultant Dependency, Strategic Streptococcus, and Gangrenous Board Members.
Your by-laws are the foundation upon which your organization will be built. They determine how your non-profit is structured and managed. They will describe the roles, expectations, duties, and responsibilities of board members. It will set forth how decisions are made and conflicts resolved. At the same time, like strategic plans and business plans, by-laws are not commandments fixed in stone. They will provide a steady hand of direction within a flexible mechanism for addressing growth, challenges, and situations as they arise. In other words, whilst by-laws do not require a constitutional convention, they are also not something to be crafted with speed and indifference.
Assuming you are serious about forming a sustainable business and not merely hoping to circumvent having a viable business plan by hoping to supplement your income through a quick influx of donations and grants, you should gather as many different samples of by-laws from as many different organizations that have similar missions as yours. Analyse them to see how the successes, failures, and experiences of other organizations may apply to your own. Remember, when forming a non-profit, it is the board members who will ultimately control and run the organization, not you. So, just because someone wants to donate money does not mean they should also serve on the board. Ideally, those persons who are already willing to serve as your initial, founding board members should also be interested and committed enough to assist you in the process of crafting the by-laws.
Whether you are forming a Children’s Vuvuzela Choir or the Wilma Schiddy Centre for the Arts, simplicity kills the soul—or, in this case, a non-profit. 


Breaking the News!

Are Union Strikes Force Majeure Events? 

When concerts and performances started falling during COVID, it sent everyone into a delirium over whether, how, when, why, if a pandemic constituted a Force Majeure event allowing an engagement contract to be cancelled without penalty. As no one was happy with answers, everyone began re-drafting their contracts to deal with future pandemics.

Hollywood’s current Writers Guild of America strike has spotlighted yet another hidden Act of God: labour strikes. Many “standard terms and conditions” give a party the right to cancel a contract in the event of a labour strike. This means that if you are engaged to perform as a soloist with an orchestra and the orchestra goes on strike, the orchestra can terminate your engagement contract without penalty. This can apply to any situation where a union strike might impact the resources needed to fulfil a contract—such as booking an event at a university-based venue and the teacher’s union goes on strike or being booked to perform and your sets and props cannot be delivered due to a trucker’s strike. Imagine my own surprise when, as a person whose wife had to show him how to change the windshield wiper fluid in my car, I woke up one day as a member of an adjunct faculty and also found myself a member of United Auto Workers…which then went on strike!

You can read more about this issue HERE


Artist Visa News & Nausea 

• The Status of Proposed Petition Fee Increases.
There have been no new updates from USCIS regarding its proposed fee increases and other changes. Whilst our crystal ball remains cloudy, the runes tell us to expect “some” changes, we just don’t know when or to what degree. In the meantime, all fees remain the same and there remain no limits to the number of beneficiaries that can be listed on O-2 or P petitions.
• COVID Vaccinations Are No Longer Required To Enter The US
Effective May 12, 2023, the Biden administration lifted the requirement that non-US citizens and non-US residents have COVID vaccinations to enter the US. However, ye who enter here will continue to be required to abandon all hopes.
• No More Passport Entry Stamps
Also this month, US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) confirmed that it will be implementing “stamp-less entries” for everyone arriving in the US. This means that when you enter the US on a visa, you will no longer receive a physical stamp and handwritten notation in your passport. Instead, your date of entry, your visa status, and the date by which you must leave will hereinafter ONLY be recorded on a digital entry/exit form called an I-94 which will ONLY be available on-line at the CBP I-94 Website .
Whilst CBP has been recording entry/exit information on digital I-94 forms for several years now, CBP officers continued to stamp passports. As it was not at all uncommon for the information on the I-94 to be incorrect, having a physical stamp meant that before you left the airport you could check and confirm that all of your information was correct. Now, for example, if you have a visa that expires on June 30, but the I-94 says May 30, you will need to leave by May 30 regardless—but you won’t know that a mistake has been made in your record unless you dash to the I-94 website as soon as you leave the immigration area and make sure your I-94 is correct. If it is not, you will need to find the CBP officer lurking betwixt the Cinnabon and Chick-Fil-A and ask them to correct it.
• There Is Nothing Graceful About US Visas  
…and speaking of entries and exits, please note that there are no automatic “grace periods”—10 days or otherwise—added before or after the validity dates of a visa. There never have been. This has always been a myth—or, at least, mischaracterized. When an individual enters the US, CBP officers have the discretion to allow them up to 10 extra days to remain in the US as a tourist. However, it is the burden of the visa holder to make the request to a CBP officer upon entry to the US. The extra dates are not automatically given.
If the officer approves (and they usually do), the approved extra days MUST be reflected on the I-94. So, if you want to claim the 10 extra days: (1) You must request the extra time; (2) the CBP officer must approve the request; and (3) the additional days must be reflected on your I-94 entry/exit form. However, as discussed above, as entry/exit information will henceforth only be recorded digitally, you will need to check the I-94 website before you leave the airport to make sure the extra days are reflected on the I-94. Otherwise, even if the officer verbally approved the extra days, you will be required to leave the US by whatever date is listed on the I-94.
The better practice is that if you know you or your artist plan to hang around after your show to attend the Toadlick County Monster Truck Mash-Up and Watermelon Bake-Off, just add those extra days onto the visa petition so your visa will be valid for the full time you want to be in the US. You can always still ask for the extra days on top of that to get even more extra time.
• Current USCIS Service Centre Processing Times:
Vermont Service Centre:      Standard processing: 6 – 8 weeks
                                              Premium processing: 9 – 10 days      
California Service Centre:    Standard Processing 3 – 4 months
                                              Premium Processing 13 – 14 days



Deep Thoughts

“Try not to focus too much energy on whether you can trust someone else. When a bird lands on a branch, it doesn’t trust that the branch will never break. It trusts its ability to fly away if it does.”





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GG Arts Law provides a comprehensive range of legal services and strategic support for the performing arts, including: Artist Visas, Taxes, and Touring; Rights & Licensing; Negotiations & Representation; Contracts; Business & Non-Profit Organization & Management; Project Management; and Strategic Consulting & Planning.




The purpose of this blog is to provide general advice and guidance, not legal advice. Please consult with an attorney familiar with your specific circumstances, facts, challenges, medications, psychiatric disorders, past-lives, karmic debt, and anything else that may impact your situation before drawing any conclusions, deciding upon a course of action, sending a threatening email, filing a lawsuit, or basically doing anything that may in any way rely upon an assumption that we know what we are talking about or one size fits all!