Goldberg Segalla LLP

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Sports and Entertainment

The global sports and entertainment industries employ millions of workers, delight billions of spectators, and generate trillions of dollars each year. The combination of sports franchises, media ventures, and entertainment companies is a global cultural juggernaut like no other, and the industries create tremendous opportunities for individuals and for companies — just think of the disruption of streaming services, and the rise of millionaire YouTubers and Instagrammers, both phenomena of the last decade. But along with these opportunities, there are also legal risks and challenges unique to the industry.

The Sports and Entertainment Practice Group at Goldberg Segalla comprises attorneys experienced in representing national-league sports franchises, musicians’ guilds, movie studios and production and post-production companies, magazines and other publications, television and radio stations, entertainment technology companies, online content and software providers, and events companies, as well as professional athletes, musicians, artists, and media figures. Backed by a record of successfully resolving complex and high-value disputes involving licensing, contracts, intellectual property, and civil litigation, they represent some of the sports and entertainment world’s most recognizable names, defending them in court and counseling them on day-to-day business management, emerging risks, and industry-specific challenges.

Your Counsel — Your Team

Under the leadership of the Sports and Entertainment Practice Group’s founder and chair Joseph M. Hanna, Joe, a nationally recognized authority on the National Football League concussion litigation and member of the Law360 Sports Editorial Advisory Board, our attorneys have built reputations not only as superior litigators, but as keen and far-sighted commentators on business and legal trends in sports and entertainment, publishing widely and keeping our clients up to date through the award-winning Sports and Entertainment Law Insider blog.

Trenchant insights into trends and emerging issues equip our team not only to help clients avoid risk and leverage opportunities, but also to steer them toward the most cost-effective and strategic resolution of disputes. As a member of the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution’s Panels of Distinguished Neutrals, a group of global leaders in providing and promoting alternative dispute resolution, Joe has personally handled and supervised our experienced team in numerous mediations, helping clients meet their goals without the costs of litigation, discovery, and trial. When litigation, trials, or appeals are likelier to meet a client’s objectives — on time and under budget — we bring the full force and depth of our team’s experience to the task.

Vice Chair John F. Stephens, representing the group on the west coast from the firm’s Los Angeles office, brings deep experience in data privacy and digital marketing issues; media and entertainment litigation; live entertainment transactional matters, including music festivals and intellectual property licensing and transactions; and specialty insurance coverage and litigation. As an International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Certified Information Privacy Professional for the United States (CIPP/US), John is equally well-positioned to counsel individuals on privacy and image protection as he is to advise major media entities on data collection practices and breach preparedness.

Clients rely on Goldberg Segalla for boutique-firm levels of attention and finesse, but without the limitations of pigeonholed practices and narrow specialization. Our team is national, diverse, and deeply experienced in areas of the law beyond sports, media, and entertainment, allowing us to provide clients with truly comprehensive counsel and defense. Other team members add decades of experience handling major construction and development projects, multijurisdictional and multimillion- and billion-dollar transactions, national and international mergers and acquisitions, intricate matters of corporate law and governance, and high-stakes commercial disputes, including numerous trials and appeals in state and federal courts across the country.

When clients in sports, media, and entertainment choose Goldberg Segalla, they’re choosing this team: a cross-disciplinary and collaborative group of accomplished attorneys working across the firm’s entire footprint to deliver superior, proactive, cost-effective, and global legal services.

Daily Business Operations

Our attorneys are in daily communication with executives and in-house counsel for sports teams, studios, media companies, and others to advise on the full spectrum of legal issues pertaining to operations at every level. These include:

  • Corporate entity selection and formation
  • Trademark and trade dress selection, licensing, and enforcement and infringement defense
  • Drafting and negotiating agreements for the creation, development, production, distribution, licensing, and dissemination of all manner of entertainment content, products, and services
  • Marketing compliance, including text-based marketing
  • Privacy issues, including misrepresentation of photographic images
  • Right of publicity advice, enforcement, and defense
  • Clearance work and prepublication reviews
  • Data collection and security issues and breach preparedness
  • Corporate governance
  • Employment matters
  • All types of commercial litigation

Contracts, Licenses, and Releases

We also advise out clients in complex negotiations, leveraging the full weight of our experience, transactional finesse, and understanding of the sports and entertainment industries to protect our clients’ rights, ensure their talents and services are properly valued, and position them to achieve their long-term financial and career goals. With experience representing major movie studios as well as independent filmmakers, national-league teams, production companies, and celebrity musicians and entertainers, our services include:

  • License agreements
  • Entertainment unions and guilds
  • Entertainment joint ventures and entities
  • Merchandising/branding
  • Advertising agreements
  • Distribution agreements and licenses
  • Production agreements and licenses
  • Film agreements and licenses
  • Talent agreements and releases
  • Options
  • Commission contracts
  • Negotiate music publishing rights
  • Clearance work and secure requisite intellectual property rights for literary works
  • Negotiate artist management rights
  • Legal production for music festivals and other live events and club promoters

We also help our clients achieve the cost-effective resolution of high-stakes disputes surrounding contractual issues, including:

  • Performance, endorsement, and royalty agreements
  • Licensing agreements
  • Contract litigation and arbitration

Government Policy and Regulatory Compliance

We help our clients navigate and comply with complex and ever-evolving national and international regulatory schemes, including compliance under:

  • • Communications Decency Act
  • • Digital Millennium Copyright Act
  • • Privacy Protection Act
  • • Telephone Consumer Protection Act
  • • Media-related laws
  • • Open government laws
  • • FCC regulations on indecency and obscenity
  • • Consumer privacy and data security
  • • Copyright and trademark licensing, enforcement and liability
  • • International law
  • Transactions
  • Led by attorneys with decades of experience handling all aspects of complex transactions for some of the world’s largest companies and brands, our Sports and Entertainment Practice Group guides clients through:
  • • Purchase and sale of media and entertainment properties and businesses and sports teams and companies, including foreign teams and companies
  • • Equity and debt financings
  • • Mergers and acquisitions
  • • Anti-dilution statutes
  • • Leasing and real estate matters
  • Intellectual Property Rights
  • Our clients regularly produce groundbreaking inventions, artistic logos, hit songs, and award-winning films — and they trust us to defend them. We help clients protect their creative output through services including:
  • • Intellectual property litigation
  • • Management, protection, and optimization of intellectual property, including copyright and trademark registrations
  • • Trade secret identification, protection, and misappropriation litigation
  • • Trademark Trial and Appeal Board proceedings
  • • Patent, trademark, and copyright licenses
  • • Guidance on the doctrine of “works made for hire,” including employee inventions
  • • Unfair competition defense

Protecting Publicity and Privacy Rights

Privacy is both a fundamental human expectation as well as a potentially valuable asset in the world of sports and entertainment. Because of the ubiquity of the internet and “smart” technology, we increasingly barter our privacy for social reasons; and this has shifted cultural expectations in ways that impact celebrities — athletes, entertainers, public figures — the most.

Our team helps athletes, entertainers, and high-profile media figures to protect their privacy, defend against defamation, and prevent businesses and individuals from using their names and likenesses for financial gain without consent. We can do this by catching language in contracts and agreements that might jeopardize privacy rights, as well as by aggressively pursuing litigation against those who violate those rights. As neither rights of privacy nor publicity are the subject of federal law, our team is primed to interpret pertinent state laws to defend our clients in any jurisdiction. We also regularly handle privacy- and publicity-related matters that intersect with First Amendment issues, slander, and libel.

Comprehensive Counsel for Live Entertainment Events and Ventures

Goldberg Segalla counsels clients, including the world’s largest entertainment company, on the myriad legal issues surrounding live entertainment performances. Led by John Stephens, who has two decades of experience helping entertainment companies plan and orchestrate concerts and festivals across the U.S. and around the globe, the firm’s Sports and Entertainment Practice Group offers a “soup to nuts” suite of legal services tailored to all of the challenges arising from live entertainment events. Ready to serve, advise, and defend clients in North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia, our team regularly handles:

  • Premises liability
  • Large-loss property damage
  • Complicated personal injury litigation
  • Construction
  • Bid protests
  • Environmental matters
  • Breach of contract
  • Dram Shop laws
  • Employment matters
  • Traditional labor law
  • The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
  • Workers’ compensation

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4.7/5.0 (1253 reviews)
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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for John M. Allen by a Associate on 05/04/16 in General Liability

    John is an excellent civil defense attorney. Most importantly, he seeks resolutions that are fair to the parties. This is a trait not often found in litigation matters. Given that John and I were on opposite sides of the fence in a recent case, my... Read more

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    John is an excellent civil defense attorney. Most importantly, he seeks resolutions that are fair to the parties. This is a trait not often found in litigation matters. Given that John and I were on opposite sides of the fence in a recent case, my comments stem from personal knowledge of this gentleman. Read less

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  • 5.0/5.0 Review for Michael Rubin by a Partner on 05/28/15 in Civil Litigation

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary.

    Mike is an excellent attorney, a strong client advocate and worthy adversary. Read less

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Both within our own firm and across the wider business and legal communities, Goldberg Segalla’s commitment to diversity is strong, sincere, and a critical component of our firm’s mission and culture. Our philosophy has always been that we hire people who are excellent at what they do, and even better human beings. Period. We feel we would be doing a disservice to our firm and to our clients if we didn’t include contributions from every available resource.

We are extremely proud that our commitment has received regional and national recognition for the innovative programs we have developed and the results we have been able to achieve. The following is a sampling of the firm-wide or individual honors we have received for implementing initiatives that make a difference:

  • George B. Vashon Innovator Award, Minority Corporate Counsel Association
  • MCCA Firm Affiliate Network
  • Vault/MCCA Commitment to Diversity
  • Community Service Award, Defense Research Institute
  • Good Works Award, American Bar Association Section of Litigation
  • Outstanding Committee Chair, ABA Section of Litigation
  • Diversity Trailblazer Award, New York State Bar Association
  • Legal Service Award, Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • Lawyer of the Year, Bar Association of Erie County
  • Legal Community Leader Award, National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York
  • Diversity Excellence Award, Buffalo Niagara Human Resource Association
  • Value Award for Diversity, Leadership Buffalo
  • Western New York Game Changers, Buffalo Spree magazine

What we are most proud of, though, is that our efforts have shown significant results and continue to make a lasting impact on the lives of many.

Leadership and Action

To put our philosophy and commitment into practice, we have a Diversity Task Force, which includes our managing partner, in place to conceptualize and implement diversity-focused programs as well as give diversity a voice in our decision-making at the highest level. The individuals on this task force share the firm’s strong commitment to increasing diversity, and they use their unique experiences and backgrounds to support and advance that goal. The team meets regularly to create programs, schedule events, establish diversity initiatives both inside and outside of the firm, set long-term goals, and develop the strategy to recruit and retain people from diverse backgrounds.

The chair of our Diversity Task Force, Joseph M. Hanna, has spearheaded numerous diversity initiatives in various organizations and outreach programs, serves on several diversity-related committees, and is a frequent author and speaker on diversity. Among other positions, he is co-chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyer Leadership Program, former chair of the association’s Minority Trial Lawyer Committee and its Special Committee on Human Rights, and former editor-in-chief of the ABA’s Minority Trial Lawyer; a 2014 fellow of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD); a past president of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York (MBAWNY) and the MBAWNY Foundation; and the Diversity Liaison for several committees at the 22,000-member DRI.

For more than a decade, Goldberg Segalla has proudly supported the ABA’s Judicial Internship Opportunity Program, which provides racial and ethnic minority law students, along with members of other groups underrepresented in the legal profession, opportunities to serve as an intern with a judge during the summer after their first or second year of law school. Joe Hanna — an alumni of the program himself — acts as a mentor and leader in the program, through which he has conducted more than 100 interviews for students across the country.

In 2017, Goldberg Segalla participated in the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, the New York City Bar Association’s flagship pipeline program for high school students. As a participating legal employer, we hosted high-achieving inner-city students for the summer and collaborate with the NYC Bar to provide them with additional programming before, during, and after the summer designed to help them prepare for a legal career.

Each summer, Goldberg Segalla proudly welcomes interns through a formal Diversity Clerkship Program that was conceived by Joe while he served as president of the MBAWNY. The program was developed in collaboration with the MBAWNY and the SUNY Buffalo Law School to provide opportunities for minority UB Law students to gain firsthand experience in the legal system. Since it was launched in 2011, the program has placed more than 100 students in clerkships in area courts as well as in several area law firms, with more judges and law firms asking to participate every day. It provides participants with an in-depth look at the legal process and the interaction between the bench and the bar that they would not otherwise get. At our firm, a dedicated team of partners monitors the work of these law clerks and ensures they obtain valuable experience to help develop important legal research, writing, case management, and client service skills critical to their long-term success. Our program earned the firm the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s 2012 George B. Vashon Innovator Award.

We also have sponsored Success in the City, an annual diversity networking and mentoring event developed by Joe that brought together students, legal and business professionals, educators, nonprofits, and political leaders to make lasting partnerships. Many employment, business, and mentoring relationships resulted from this event. Past events have drawn more than 500 political and business leaders, legal professionals, and students. Success in the City has influenced the development of similar programs in Baltimore, Cleveland, Birmingham, Dallas, and elsewhere.

Our firm is committed to spreading the message throughout the broad legal and business communities that embracing diversity contributes to greater overall success. We conduct training sessions for in-house counsel at Fortune 500 corporations on increasing and promoting diversity. Our attorneys have authored articles and delivered presentations on diversity for various legal organizations, including DRI and the ABA, and our efforts and accomplishments in this area have been profiled in publications such as Law360, the New York State Bar Association’s State Bar News, Business First of Buffalo, the Buffalo Law Journal, and others.

In one example of our work to provide inspiration and raise awareness of diversity and women’s issues in the legal community, Caroline Berdzik, chair of our Employer and Labor Practice Group, spoke to Law360 for the publication’s “Female Powerbrokers” series. In the interview, Caroline discussed her career, the challenges of being a woman at a senior level at a law firm, the work-family life balance, and the importance of taking risks. She also offered guidance to female attorneys on moving their careers forward and advice to law firms on both increasing the number of women partners and retaining top female talent. Her longtime advocacy for women (at her previous firm, she served on the Women’s Business Development Committee and was a member of what became the national Women’s Presidents Organization) helped earn her a spot on the 2015 NJBIZ list of New Jersey’s Best 50 Women in Business.

Joe Hanna also was featured by Law360 in its “Minority Powerbrokers” series, in which he shared his perspective on breaking the glass ceiling in the legal industry, the challenges of being a lawyer of color at a senior level, how law firms can increase diversity in their partner ranks, and Goldberg Segalla’s core commitment to diversity.


Goldberg Segalla is proud to be a member of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association Firm Affiliate Network, which was created by the MCCA to assist and acknowledge law firms that are committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

We are also a member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD), a national organization of leaders in law firms and corporate legal departments dedicated to creating a truly diverse legal profession. As noted earlier, Joe Hanna was a fellow of the LCLD in 2014. In this position, he played a critical role in organizing the first-ever New York City LCLD Fellows Roundtable event, and he was instrumental in establishing a mentorship program in Hartford for local diverse first-year law students.

We support the diversity efforts of numerous organizations, including:

  • American Bar Association
  • Asian American Bar Association of New York
  • Columbian Lawyers Association
  • Defense Research Institute
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Korean American Association of Greater New York
  • League of First Nations
  • Minority Bar Association of Western New York
  • National Bar Association
  • Native American Rights Fund
  • National Association of Asian American Professionals
  • National Congress of American Indians
  • New York State Bar Association
  • Seneca Free Trade Association
  • SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York

Our outreach efforts led to the creation of a comprehensive database of more than 500 minority law organizations throughout the United States. Contact between these organizations takes place in anticipation of bringing CLE and legal programs together. This group of minority bar associations includes both local and national organizations, such as:

  • National Association of Women Lawyers
  • National Association of Muslim Lawyers
  • Hispanic National Bar Association
  • National Asian Pacific American Bar
  • Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles
  • South Asian Bar Association of Philadelphia
  • Vietnamese American Bar Association of North Carolina

A Talented and Diverse Team

Diversity is further evident within our firm through the many languages and dialects spoken by members of our team, including Albanian, Arabic, Croatian, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Malayalam, Mandarin, Marathi, Norwegian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Tamil, Thai, and Urdu.

Goldberg Segalla’s culture is one that values team-spiritedness, collegiality, and interpersonal harmony within our working community. We are a firm that believes in diversity in the workplace, and we are proud to offer a professional and positive work environment for each and every member of our team.

On these values, and on our commitment to diversity, we will never waver. We are proud of what we have accomplished thus far, but we also realize that this is a long-term mission. We will continue to innovate and to improve diversity in law and business — both within Goldberg Segalla and across the communities in which we live and work.

Diversity Matters — Join the Conversation

If you have questions regarding any of the firm’s diversity initiatives or would like to discuss ideas regarding increasing diversity in the legal profession, please contact Joe Hanna (716.566.5447; [email protected]) or another member of our Diversity Task Force:

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