Australia: Avoiding Fyre: eight key legal issues in running a festival or event

Last Updated: 11 September 2019
Article by Emily Booth

Most organisations running an event or festival are not going to run into a Fyre Festival scenario (a music event made infamous by allegations of defrauding investors and ticketholders) if they set out with good intentions.

However there are some key issues that organisations need to be mindful of before hosting an event:

  • structure (and we don't mean your marquee):Who will sign your contracts and how will you separate your legal liability? You don't want to be personally liable if something goes wrong so running the event as an individual with an ABN for example may not be the way to go. Consider what your exposure is and get advice on your contract structure from Day 1, before you enter into any contracts
  • venue: Venue hire agreements will need to be reviewed for terms that may raise a red flag. These include terms concerning access rights prior to the event, insurance cover and what liability they are asking you to give away
  • staff: Have you got the right contract for the job and know which awards you need to comply with? Are the people you engage independent contractors or employees, and what are your obligations under law? Special rules apply to the creative industries and you will likely need to pay superannuation, as an extended definition of 'employee' applies for the purposes of superannuation in this space
  • intellectual property: Running a festival will likely involve the creation or use of intellectual property, such as written, artistic or musical works. You will need to consider how to protect that intellectual property, so it is preserved for future events or festivals without infringing the intellectual property of any third parties. This may involve properly licensing any third party intellectual property that is required, such as obtaining the right music licences or assignments of intellectual property to you
  • sponsorship agreements: When negotiating sponsorship agreements, build in protections for your brand, such as making sure you can terminate the arrangement if the sponsor causes you reputational loss, and putting into writing the commitments the sponsor is making, including both cash and goods and/or services, promotions etc
  • advertising: Make sure the advertising of your event complies with all relevant laws, including those under the Australian Consumer Law and the advertising standards codes. You want to avoid making claims that give a potentially false impression of what the ticket holder will see or do at your event. The advertising of the Boomers vs USA game at Marvel Stadium is a recent matter the ACCC is reportedly looking into
  • liability: Consider the occupational health and safety obligations relevant to the location in which your event or festival is being held. What are the potential hazards and what licences do you require, such as for service of alcohol or food?
  • privacy: Events or festivals may involve the collection of extensive personal information from attendees and others. Even if your organisation is not subject to privacy laws that apply to larger businesses, your funding bodies may require that you comply with these laws, and your attendees and sponsors will expect it. Your reputation is everything and you do not want your attendees to have anything but trust in how you will deal with their personal information.

Whether you are running the next Dark MoFo or a sales conference, keep these issues in mind from the start so your dream event does not turn into a nightmare.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.

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