Ryan L. Jones is the founder and principal of Washington, D.C.-based Ryan L. Jones Law, LLC, a law firm where he represents clients who need legal assistance for a variety of needs–including sports and entertainment. He has successfully filed trademarks before the USPTO and copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Here, Jones shares tips for artists and content creators looking to source the best legal representation possible to launch, protect, grow and scale their ideas, business and intellectual assets.
Why did you choose law as a career?
I’m going to articulate it much differently today than when I was filling out law school applications. But, I believe I’ve always known I wanted to be a lawyer. The effect a place like D.C. has is also influential, with so many attorneys here. Since being in the profession, I’m extraordinarily happy with the decision. The truth is, it’s a profession with an impact on the structure of society that is unmatched, with a great amount of responsibility that requires you to grow into the demands of it.
What are the top tips that you can provide for artists and content creators regarding protecting their rights and their intellectual property?
I would tell them they are a business. Copyright and trademark laws are your friend. Be willing to understand the importance of getting federal copyright protection, and the process to earn a copyright. You may realize you have a brand, and therefore a trademark for your products, so you can open yourself up to greater business opportunities, or simply protect your business, if you protect those rights.
At what stage or point in your career should you choose to hire an attorney?
Legal issues come when they do. Get a lawyer to help you. If it is outside of your budget at the time, seek assistance from a law school clinic or non-profit organization that provides free legal help. And, try to nourish a relationship with a lawyer who can provide some pro bono tips to stem needing to pay one later. Attorneys can be a large expense, so be sure you’re at a place where the cost-benefit analysis allows for a viable business.
What should you look for in an entertainment attorney?
Most people in the entertainment space need LLCs, copyright and trademark protection, and someone to explain their obligations under a contract. You want someone who knows the area of your specific need. So, if you are facing a tax issue, find a tax attorney. Use a trusts and estates lawyer for creating a will, and establishing those related legal vehicles.
What is the best business entity for an artist to set up to protect his personal brand?
I do not want this to be construed as giving legal advice, so this is my disclaimer that this is not legal advice. Each entity and business model requires an analysis to see which designation works best to their benefit, and getting input from an accountant will help. But to file for and receive a trademark you must have a business entity registered with a State, such as an LLC.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve seen an artist make?
Not knowing the impact and the obligations of what they are signing.
What do you like most about your job?
Having the opportunity to use an acquired and polished skillset to navigate some significant issues that could have a real impact on a person or business. You help stand in the way of very real issues people are facing.