The entertainment industry sometimes is the great equalizer.
Here’s what I mean by that.
One would be constrained to name another profession or trade where a minor (i.e., someone under the age of 18) could be a defining force.
For example, no matter how gifted or talented someone is: I don’t know of any 8 year old surgeons or airline pilots. However, YouTube is full of talented musicians and singers who haven’t even reached a decade old yet.
In fact, some of our biggest stars began as children like Michael Jackson and Miley Cyrus.
So, it is not surprising that if you are in entertainment it is only a matter of time before you come across a minor in some capacity as an artist. When you do, it is important you remember some important rules.
The first rule is to find out who you are dealing with in terms of representation of the artist.
Often, family members are involved and quite frequently someone either volunteers for the job or they commandeer it. Once you determine who that person is make sure that they have the right to speak and negotiate for the child. There are political reasons as well as legal reasons for this inquiry.
For example, in the case of divorced parents this can be an issue if everyone is not on the same page.
Thus, you don’t want to deal with one parent or individual only to find out that someone else has to be involved but is not.
In most states a parent will be deemed (or even appointed) as a “guardian” for the minor. That is the person you want. The reasons for this are twofold.
First, if you contract with a minor directly you need to understand that in nearly every state contracts with minors are voidable by the minor even if he or she misrepresented their age. A minor can furthermore, in many states, avoid contractual obligations for a reasonable time after attaining the age of majority. That means that the minor can essentially ditch the contract and that is not a desirable position to be in for the other side.
Second, you want to be careful that the minor has the capacity to contract.
Moving to our second rule, you must consult an attorney and here’s why.
Many times people forget that minors have special labor laws which apply to them whether they are in entertainment or not. For example, minors may not be able to work past a certain time of day or their availability to work may be constrained. In the entertainment field, this can be an issue.
Furthermore, some states like New York and California have enacted special laws which specifically deal with minors and entertainment. Thus, not knowing your particular state’s law is like trying to navigate a ship without a map.
The time to explore these issues is before contracting with a minor.
Doing your due diligence and knowing your applicable legal rules are some of the keys to avoiding issues with minors. A phone call to an attorney is a good start to satisfying these concerns.
Originally posted 2013-04-08 03:14:30.