17/11/2017 Fabio Cesnik, Lawyer to the Arts

It was the day that a São Paulo gallery owner almost ran down the musician Jorge Mautner that the first door to the cultural world opened for Fabio Cesnik, a key advocate for the entertainment industry. Cesnik was then a law student at the Largo of San Francisco, in São Paulo, up to his neck in student militancy: besides being part of the academic center XXI of August, he was a leader of the State Student Union (UEE).

One day, the directors of the UEE wanted to promote an event with a show, to discuss the representation of deputies by State. Cesnik had no idea who to call. He then asked for a recommendation from the only person in the “area” he knew: a gallery owner who had sought the Academic Center for legal assistance for an employee. The woman said she did not know any musicians but that she had Jorge Mautner’s (a Brazilian Singer) phone because she had almost run him over. Cesnik called and managed to convince him to go by bus from Rio to São Paulo to do the show. It was the beginning not only of a long friendship, but of a career.

Two years after that show, Jorge Mautner invited Fabio to become his producer. And so, between 1995 and 1996, Cesnik produced Jorge Mautner, Tom Zé, Walter Franco, Demônios da Garoa and others.

“Mautner taught me everything about production and about life. I was very shy even doing student politics. And I was embarrassed to speak in public. The conversations with him helped me get through. He introduced me to a whole new world and showed me the importance of mediation, “Cesnik says.

In the eighth grade, Cesnik passed the university entrance examination for statistics at Unicamp. In his first year of high school, he wrote three booklets with all the material for the whole school year. Restless, his father took him to the doctor. “Keep this boy away from the books. Have him do something else, the doctor said.” His father not knowing what to do let him drive before he was 18 and put him in a gym. Although none of this made Fabio excited, it did had some effect on him; he gave up the idea of going to the Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA). And in 1992, at the age of 17, he began to study law.

Before Jorge Mautner crossed his path Cesnik was in love with student politics. But when culture came into his life, his life gained new meaning. Cesnik understood that it was possible to join the two worlds and, with Rodrigo Salinas and another colleague, they opened an office for artists in 1996. Fernando Quintino arrived in 2002, giving rise to Cesnik Quintino & Salinas Law Office. The first client was the actor Sérgio Mamberti; the second, the designer Elifas Andreato. Mambeti recommended them to Marieta Severo, who recommended them to Chico Buarque, who recommended them to Edu Lobo and that’s where he went.

From the artists (Daniela Mercury, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa etc.), the office opened for companies in the sector (MGM, Discovery, Companhia das Letras, Sony Music, Itaú Cultural, Football Museum, O2 Films, by Fernando Meirelles, Uns Productions and Films, by Paula Lavigne) and later for the sponsors of culture and sports (such as Unilever, Natura, Cielo, CCR).

“When we started, most lawyers did copyright. We studied a lot of copyright, but the reality of the artistic world presented us with other areas”, he says. The firm specialized in the newly created tax incentive mechanisms, such as the Rouanet Law (1991) and the Audiovisual Law (1993) and, with that sector their business expanded.

The business was born in a house in Vila Madalena and today occupies the entire floor of a building on Avenida Paulista. We are a “full service” organization. In addition to working with a variety of legal issues – from corporate law to copyright registration, they follow bills that pertain to the sector leading in publications, seminars on culture and debates. Law 12.485 (2011), which instituted quotas for national content on pay-TV, and Pro-Culture, a reform project of the Rouanet Law, are examples of texts that have passed through our office before it proceeded to the congress.

The debates we sponsored generated a certain unease between our office and the Lula government in the discussions about Rouanet Law. But the strategy continues. Cesnik has just moved to Los Angeles and organized an event on video on demand earlier this month, attended by Cultural Minister Sergio Sá Leitão. It is a way of plowing the ground for his new endeavor; to be in Los Angeles, the lawyer specializing in Brazilian law. And the regulation of the streaming service is the great debate of the audiovisual sector at the moment – it is considered, for example, to establish quotas of national content for VoD. “All these laws that were being created in Brazil generate a compulsory market and international companies have to navigate in this, in structuring their business,” says Cesnik, referring to the Pay TV Law and the articles of the Audiovisual Law that predict that American distributors co-produce works from here.

“This is an increasingly complex business. One important change is that new ‘players’ in the entertainment industry are tech companies. Netflix and Sportify have more technology employees than content”, points out the lawyer who has represented the Affro Reggae in a lawsuit against Google. “Another novelty is that many of these mediations will have to take place at the international level,” he concludes, resuming Mautner’s lesson on the value of mediation and composition.


You can read the article in portuguese here.

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