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September 2023

Ten Questions to a Media Lawyer: Clara Steinitz

Taking the oath in 2003

Clara Steinitz is co-founder of TALIENS France.

How did you get interested in media law?

I got a foot in media law through copyright disputes, given my IP background. And copyrights in the media is an area I keep enjoying. As a matter of fact, just last week, I had two exciting matters on this subject: One about a magazine with a transformative work on the cover: appropriationism and freedom of creation, derivative works, parody — some challenging concepts when trying to make sense of case law. The other was about an allegedly unauthorised remake of a movie, where demonstration of the absence of infringement supposes a review of storylines, directing approaches, characters, message conveyed. A most interesting hearing!

What was your first job in the business?

Although my university specialisation covered both intellectual property law and media law, my first few years of professional practice were focused on intellectual property. From time to time there was a media instruction, but only occasionally. Then, my team joined an Anglo-Saxon firm with a strong media focus. There, the ground was more fertile for the development of this activity. At this stage of my career, I was becoming more autonomous, and, thanks to some really great clients, I was able to become very active in media law.

What’s your most memorable case or experience in media law?

“Mission: Impossible 6”: The biggest movie shoot ever in Paris. Not only did I have the good fortune of being the production’s legal advisor for the French part of the shoot, but it also happened just as we were setting up our own law firm (with the wonderful partners in the picture). You could say that Ethan Hunt gave us quite a boost at the start of our firm! What’s more, the US legal team were really dream clients and the sometimes-eccentric legal requirements were just as entertaining (for a lawyer) as the result on screen!

Taliens founding partners in 2017

 Having worked with American lawyers, how would you compare the legal and work cultures?

Americans and the French agree much more often than one sometimes thinks! But American cultural perspectives are undeniably different. Take contracts, for example: American contracts are very long and detailed, with often tough positions on paper. But when it comes to enforcing them, Americans are very pragmatic. In France, parties take a more Latin approach to negotiations: we agree on the major points, the rest will follow, with the net of suppletive codified rules of law. But when it comes to enforcing contracts, the French frequently cloak themselves in principles and get hung up on their positions…

What was the best piece of career advice you were ever given

I can’t think of any specific career tip, but rather thoughts that have helped me move forward. One thing that stuck: someone once said to me, after my first maternity leave: “I don’t think being an attorney is fit for women.” Maybe by professional habit, it rather made me want to take the opposite view. I thought: “Well, we’ll see about that!” It’s true that as a woman, and a mother, it sometimes gets challenging to run things on all fronts, but as Cate Blanchett said “When people ask me how I manage to do it all, I reply: ‘I just can’t! Nobody can.’” We do our best. It’s liberating when, sometimes, you manage to accept that.

Family picture, 2021

Any unique hobbies (past or present)?

I love scuba diving. Underwater, I can finally let go. The sensations, the sights, it’s incredible. Unfortunately, there’s no sea in Paris and I’ve got a busy job…

Is Kylian Mbappé the best soccer player in the world? Will Les Bleus win the 2026 World Cup?

“Soccer?” Football you mean? 😉

Mbappé is very good and a local hero with the Paris local team, but personally I’ve always had a soft spot for Antoine Griezmann. And yes, together they are going to come to North America and win the World Cup in 2026!

An American in Paris: What do you recommend she see and eat while visiting Paris?

I would recommend exploring Paris on foot. It is one of the city’s great pleasures. Walk along the Seine to the Ile de la Cité and Ile Saint-Louis, stroll down the covered passages (Passage Verdeau, Galerie Vivienne, and Passage des Panoramas and many others), visit the city’s parks (I particularly like the Jardin du Luxembourg), walk through the Palais Royal. But also leave yourself time to wander about aimlessly, stop in cafés and order an espresso with a butter croissant or a crusty baguette!

What French journalist, author, academic (contemporary or historic) would you most like to have lunch with and what would you order?

Adèle Van Reeth: she was recently nominated as the head of France Inter (France’s most listened to radio station). She’s a journalist, who has hosted some very successful radio programmes, an author, and a mother — and accepted this most challenging position. Inspiring!

Delphine Horvilleur could join too: a French writer and rabbi, who brings a sense of perspective to our society. And maybe Romain Gary: a French novelist, diplomat (he was a French consul in L.A. for a while), film director, and World War II aviator, who has had several lives in one! Well, that’s enough guests for lunch, otherwise we’ll never get to leave the table!

For the menu, I thought of a cheese selection and a good bottle of wine.

Wine tasting with the team

Is there a French writer, filmmaker, performer that Americans should know more about? 

I’d say Justine Triet, who won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for her film Anatomy of a Fall. The film has not been selected to represent France at the Oscars ceremony, so perhaps it will get less media coverage in the United States. What’s more, Triet is my business partner’s niece, so even though I don’t know her, I’m moved to promote her!

Anne and Claire Berest also: two sisters, two writers, both very talented. I discovered them by reading the book by Anne entitled La Carte Postale (“The Postcard”). It’s undoubtedly one of the books that has resonated with me most in recent years. The book was awarded the first annual Choix Goncourt United States (US Goncourt Prize Selection). After that, I read others by her and her sister, including the recently edited L’épaisseur d’un cheveux (“The Thickness of a Hair”) by Claire Berest. A very different style, but well written and efficient (and cinematographic, producers take note!).

Celebrating the firm’s 5 anniversary in 2022