EXCLUSIVE: A new boutique law firm dedicated to serving the creative and entertainment industries will open its doors in Sydney’s suburb of Surry Hills this week.
Kay & Hughes, founded by Kate Hughes and Ben Kay, launches on Thursday with a mandate to better cater to the needs of advertising agencies, production companies and art galleries.
“There were a number of gaps in the legal services being provided to the industry already and by making ourselves independent and giving ourselves free reign to work how we liked, we felt we would be in a position to fill those gaps,” Hughes told B&T.
“The advertising industry, like other creative industries, has a number of vulnerabilities in relation to its relationship with lawyers. That is the fact that the advertising industries are often quite isolated from the law so for them to bridge the knowledge gap required is difficult. They really need the help of specialists,” she said.
Both Kay and Hughes have interesting creative back stories.
Hughes is married to Evan Hughes, manager of the renowned The Hughes Gallery (formerly Ray Hughes Gallery) in Surry Hills, and son of veteran art dealer, Ray Hughes. Kay’s father is a big live theatre producer in Melbourne.
“We are both very personally and emotionally invested in this area and have very close personal connection to the industry. So we know how difficult dealing with lawyers can be for people in this area,” Kay told B&T.
The pair has set up shop at a watershed moment in the history of media law. Digital media, and particularly social media, is evolving at such a rapid rate that intellectual property and copyright law is struggling to keep up.
“The law is necessarily a slowly evolving thing and law is still catching up with the internet,” said Kay.
“Everything moves so fast now and we are dealing with a global creative industry, but laws are fundamentally territorial. So not only are you dealing with Australian laws that are slightly outdated, you are dealing with American, English and Asian laws that are slightly outdated and that does make this tricky,” he said.
Social is one grey area which the partners aim to help their clients navigate.
“The law hasn’t really even started to wrap its head around social yet. Basically you are applying laws that were created for mediums like print and broadcast to completely new concepts. Our job is to advise on how these laws that have been drafted to apply for these older mediums might apply to these newer technologies,” said Hughes.
For creative agencies and entertainment producers, the challenges are vast. In a world where everyone is a publisher, questions over IP and copyright are becoming exponentially complex.
“Intellectual property laws should be enforced via a reasonable amount over control over different mediums and that was easier when you had publishing presses and a couple of broadcast networks and people who were clearly responsible for channeling content onto those mediums.
“But social media means little fish suddenly become content distributors, and copyright law which was devised and created and planned around very big content distribution methods suddenly has to deal with every person on the planet becoming a publisher.
"They are trying to deal with it – there is a copyright review taking place at the moment but copyright law is really a complex area and people are quite hesitant to reform it drastically because there is so much economic importance in copyright. It’s a form of property and the second you change the boundaries of any kind of property rights you are changing peoples rights and their finances. And social media is just one more thing that challenges copyrighting,” said Kay.
One of the firm’s major points of difference is its billing structure which does away with minute-by-minute charges. Partners will provide upfront quotes for entire jobs, which they will stick to.
“Under the traditional model your legal fees are basically a question mark. We are trying to stop the discomfort and fear associated with that,” said Kay.
“The traditional model sees law firms bill for phonecalls, letters, emails. Everything is commodified and transactional. That model wasn’t really allowing us to provide the advice we wanted to provide people. When you bill every minute it necessarily limits how much time you can spend on the matter. Everyone has a limited budget and if you want to do things properly it takes time,” added Hughes.