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At Oscar Time, Hollywood Comes to Miami Law

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Right on cue – just as Hollywood braces itself for the 84th Academy Awards on Feb. 26 – a veteran entertainment lawyer who has been involved in show business in Los Angeles for a quarter century is teaching a three-week course at the University of Miami School of Law.

Nicholas La Terza's course on entertainment law, which began on Tuesday, is exploring the legal and business issues that transactional attorneys encounter in the industry, particularly in the high-stakes worlds of films and television. According to the course description, the material is being presented from the perspective of the practitioner who represents clients in the production and distribution of films and TV programs. The course also examines the various structures employed to finance production, including distribution presales, network licenses, bank loans, completion bonds, tax shelters and domestic and foreign governmental subsidies.

La Terza has taught entertainment law at both Pepperdine Law School and the University of San Diego School of Law. He earned a BS and an MA magna cum laude from Villanova University and a JD cum laude from the University of Toledo Law School. After graduation, he clerked for Federal District Court Judge Jesse Curtis in the Central District of California. After his clerkship, La Terza joined the firm of Kaplan, Livingston in Beverly Hills as an associate, and later became a partner at the firm of Sidley & Austin.

He entered the executive ranks as general counsel at New World Entertainment, and later was Head of Business/Legal Affairs at Largo Entertainment, overseeing the production and financing of theatrical features. La Terza also served as Executive Vice President of Landscape Entertainment, supervising movies-of-the-week and television series in development at various networks. He now practices with The Point Media, a Beverly Hills law firm that represents entertainment companies and creative talent in TV, films, publishing and new media.

The Point Media's website says that, "in his prior life," La Terza was a screenwriter, as well as a keyboard player and singer, "and still plays occasional bar gigs in Southern California."

La Terza is a former chairman of the UCLA Law School Entertainment Law Symposium Committee, as well as a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

In his course at Miami Law, which ends on Feb. 29, La Terza is discussing the differences between major studio productions versus independent movies, as well as the various forms of contingent compensation, including deferments and net, gross and adjusted gross participations. The course also introduces the legal and business issues encountered when acquiring literary properties and establishing agreements for the services of producers, writers, directors and actors, including minors. He is also tackling the role of agents and managers, and the laws under which they function.

In addition, he is addressing the various forms of legal protection that are provided by intellectual property laws, including copyright, implied contract theory, and rights of privacy. "The overall goal of the course," its description says, "is to enable students to develop an informed and analytical approach to the practice of entertainment law."