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Afro-Latina Attorney takes pay cut to advise Independent Creatives during Covid-19

Marissa Crespo is a Celebrity Attorney and the Founder & Owner of Crespo Law Office, P.C.

As an Entertainment, Business and Intellectual property attorney, Marissa focuses on copyright-and-trademark brand protection for content creators in the film, television, literary, fashion, and music industries and has negotiated contracts with many well-known corporations, such as NBC, VH1, Bravo, WE TV and Grammy-Award winning recording artists and songwriters.

While working with franchises negotiating development deals and being published by Thomson Reuters may be great for her brand, Marissa's love for the culture runs deeper.

Marissa has a passion for working with the unrepresented; specifically Female, African-American Independent Creatives. As a Afro- Latino woman herself, she fully understands the importance of representation in a male-dominated industry.

Teetering the edge of an exotic crisis due to Covid-19, independent creatives are being effected in a major way. Marissa says, "At times of hardship such as now, many independent creatives do not qualify for unemployment or SBA loans because they didn't handle the "business" side of music or film correctly." While under quarantine and social distancing, independent creatives should take time to evaluate and restructure the foundation of their brand; what Marissa calls "proper business formation."

Proper business formation "starts with filing for a corporate entity, such as a corporation, partnership or limited liability company. To figure out the best form of your business, it is always helpful to have both an attorney and an accountant to advise you on the pros and cons of each corporate entity structure to figure out the best structure for your business and operations. Once the company is structured, having the core form agreements in place to run your business and work with others is equally important to minimize major hiccups along the way."

Now... copyright and trademark brand protection. Marissa says, "It is everything!" As a content creator, did you ever consider the chance of your branding being stolen right in front of your eyes? Marissa says, "For content creators, copyrights and trademarks are literally the bread and butter of what they are creating. These are intangible assets that appreciate in value (especially during these technological times), and what they can lean on to monetize and build their legacy."

For anyone starting to brand themselves or products, Marissa emphasizes an important rule of "knowing the core essence of your brand and to protect it early through trademark registration." She says, "Knowing the quality and positioning of your brand in the marketplace is key to unlocking the possibilities of expansion of your brand through trademark licensing and effective partnerships."

We know what you're thinking... "How about 'the poor man’s copyright'?" Jokingly, Marissa says, "This really should be called the Old Man’s Copyright, as the method entailed dating your intellectual property and mailing it to yourself to show proof of ownership." She continues, "To legally protect and enforce your copyright (at least in court), the proper form of registering your copyright is with the U.S. Copyright Office, which is the federal agency delegates with the power of registration. The poor man’s copyright is an ineffective way of establishing proof of ownership. The best way is to actually register with the U.S. Copyright Office to obtain the rights, protections and benefits of federal registration."

Failing to properly form and conduct business most likely had a huge impact on independent creatives during the coronavirus pandemic. Marissa says, "Entertainment is a sexy business, but at the end of the day it is still a business. It is important to still have a business plan showing the potential growth trajectory of the company and the financial history of the company in order to prove to banks and the Small Business Administration that your company is financially responsible and worth granting loans to grow the business."

She adds, "Many creatives also tend not to qualify for unemployment because they are in a gig economy operating as more freelancers instead of employees. Now, I am a fan of independence; but, it is important to think of ways to still tie yourself to employment as an employee, which in some circumstances can be achieved by putting yourself on payroll of YOUR OWN company."

Many independent creatives who didn't qualify for unemployment or SBA loans should pivot now. Marissa says, "Employing yourself is a powerful thing, so long as you also understand that you as the employer must also pay unemployment insurance to your respective state to potentially qualify for unemployment benefits as an employee of your company." Tips such as these are incentives as to why speaking with an attorney and accountant are neccessary to structuring a business. Marissa says, "Especially now with what we have seen as potential forms of emergency relief from the federal government in unprecedented times like now with Covid-19... The pandemic has forced a lot of content creators to think differently on how they set up and operate their own companies to be prepared to apply for forms of relief to assist in the event their businesses are at risk financially due to unforeseen circumstances."

Marissa offers independent creatives "free consultations and significantly reduced rates" as she understands so many are at an immediate need for legal assistance during this time. She says, "Whether independent creatives need help in forming their business, having their contracts prepared or reviewed, or need better protection in a situation where they suddenly became unemployed and still need to be compensated, I have been jumping in to help those creatives in need. Our creatives are the ones who are keeping us entertained and are the artistic healers of our communities. So they must be helped."

For more information on Marissa Crespo and Crespo Law Office, P.C., visit @CLO_Entertainment on Instagram.


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