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An actor is a person who entertains and communicates with an audience through their interpretation of dramatic or comedic roles.  Actors work in film, television or theatre with their emotions, experiences, and feelings.  Generally, actors perform only in front of cameras, and/or on a stage, rather than behind the scenes.  It has become commonplace for actors to take on multiple roles in a film, both behind and in front of the camera.

There are many explicit laws protecting film actors especially infant and child actors.  The activities of child actors are regulated by state and federal laws.  In California, laws insist that a child actor must secure a work permit before accepting any paid performing work.  Compulsory education laws mandate that the education of the child actor not be disrupted.  The laws have gone to the extend of insisting that a child actor who is enrolled in public school, private school, or home school, the child does schoolwork under the supervision of a set teacher while on the set.  Finally, the hours a child actor may work are limited.   In the case of infants, laws specify that an infant might be allowed “under the lights” only a few minutes a day.

Using children in motion pictures has been criticized as exploitation.  California combated this by enacting the Coogan Law which requires a portion of the earnings of a child actor to be preserved in a special savings account called a blocked trust.  In the United States, federal law has specifically exempted child actors from all provisions of the Child Labor Laws.

Adult film actors participating in sexual scenes must prove they have tested negative for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases within 30 days of going to work on a film.  There were attempts in 1970s to outlaw pornography in the U. S. by prosecuting porn stars for prostitution.  California Court made it clear that  prostitution is were someone take part in a sexual relationship for money.  Whereas, an adult film actor takes on the act of merely portraying a role which involves a sexual relationship as part of their acting performance.  At present, no other state in the United States has either implemented or accepted this legal distinction.

Another area of concern for actors is copyright.  Actors rarely own the copyright to their films.  The copyright of a film generally vests with the producer.  Copyright Act specifically provides that the owner of a copyright have the right to make derivative works.  Because of this the available legal protection for the virtual rights of actors is highly uncertain.  Apart from this, there are a few other obstacles to enforcing the virtual rights of actors.  Under the law of many states, the legal protection of name, likeness and voice (right of publicity) ends at the death of the actor.  Another obstacle is that many states do not regard the use of name, voice or likeness in entertainment as an infringement.  However, most states limit the right of publicity to commercial advertising or promotion of a product.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) was established to help fight for atrists’ rights.  With 20 branches nationwide, SAG represents nearly 120,000 working actors in film, television, industrials, commercials, video games, music videos and other new media.  SAG aims at enhancing actors’ working conditions, compensation and benefits

Inside Actors