This is an excellent resource book on legal issues involving clearance and copyright issues affecting the film industry. Numerous sample contracts are presented within this book.
Readers learn a copyright automatically exists to any original book, play, song, photograph, etc. There is no registration required.
It is a violation of the copyright law to make even one copy of a movie.
A copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the author. If a work was written by a corporation, employee or hired employee as a condition of employment, the copyright lasts the lesser of 1.) 120 years from when if was created or 2.) 95 years after it was published.
A derivative work must secure permission from the copyright owner in order to produce an alteration of an original work.
A public performance of copyrighted material, even if performed for free, must request permission from the owner of the owner of the copyright.
Ideas can not be copyrighted. Copyright protects something in a tangible form. Thus, the more written, the more it is protected is someone steals it.
An implied contract bonds an agreement between parties even though the terms have not been settled.
An express contract is an agreement between parties of specific terms, either in writing or orally.
A dispute where a court agrees a story concept was stolen requires both parties to be industry professionals. A studio has no obligation to pay a non-writer for a movie concept. The court also has to agree that the stolen concept was specific enough to the concept used in the movie. The courts in most states will require the concept must be a novel one. Payment for the concept requires showing the author was denied the ability to make money for it in order for it to be a contract dispute rather than a copyright dispute.
A producer who pitched an idea that a studio makes has an implied contract. Courts have upheld this when the studio than made the film with no payment to the producer who pitched the idea. Such cases are often difficult to prove. The person accusing another of stealing ideas has to show by the preponderance of evidence that the accuser's ideas were sent and received by the defendant, that it was clear the sender expected payment should the idea be used, and the accused knew this and accepted the idea on such payment terms.
Many studios require writers to agree to waive their rights before allowed to pitch ideas. Some studio lawyers avoid making this requirement too overbearing that a court would find it unenforceable.
Writers should keep all writings from a studio mentioning their ideas. This may be useful if a paper trail is every needed. It is helpful to keep a record of all meetings and telephone discussions.
Treatments and scripts should be registered with the Writers Guild (WGA). Mailing a script to oneself and not opening it until a trial may not work as opposing counsel may dispute that the seal can not be proved to have never been altered.
Another may make fair use of another's work depending upon how it is used, depending whether or not it is used for profit, the nature of the work, the degree to which a copyrighted work is used, and how much the use of the work affects its value. Appellate courts have made inconsistent rulings regarding fair use. There are arguments between the need for copyright protections versus the needs of First Amendment expressions.
Court rulings have failed to produce clear definitions of what is or is not fair use of copyrighted materials. Fair use will require that it was necessary to make a point, only enough required to make the point was used, and there is a clear connection between what is used and the point.
A parody can be made of a copyrighted work that criticizes or comments on it so long as it does not diminish the value of the copyrighted work. There is no requirement the parody contain humor. 2 Live Crew's "Pretty Woman" was ruled a parody of Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman".
A work whose owner can't be found after a legitimate substantial written search is an orphan work that can be used. If the orphan work's owner later appears, fewer copyrighted protections are afforded the owner. A copyright dispute over a character may depend on whether a character has enough original "character delineation". Also important, to a lesser degree, is the degree to which the "story being told" concerns the character in dispute.
A copyrighted logo that appears on clothing used as costume in a film that uses the clothing in its intended use should not be a trademark violation. Documentaries have less to worry about. A lawsuit was filed by the trademark owner of the Barney costume, but lost as it was a parody, over the commercial use of a Barney-like costume.
The owner of source material which a script is based upon owns "underlying property". The "underlying rights" must be obtained from this owner.
A film company has to own the underlying work in order to do anything with the story that involves a film, including re-releases. A work with a -re-1978 copyrighted story may have seen its film rights to a studio cease when a writer died and those rights were inherited.
Often a studio buys an option of a film which gives the studio the right to decide if it will make the film. No other studio could bid on the film while the option remains in effect. The author advises the option be in writing.
In a joint writing effort, if one person has the right to decide what goes into the script, that person has superintendence over the script. Courts have varied over the degree to which superintendence determines the rights between joint authors.
A person generally does not have a reasonable expectation to privacy when in public. Usually a person can be filmed in a public place. The following, though, may be disallowed to be shown if an affirmative misrepresentation was made in the filming.
fictional film should obtain a location agreement for all locations used. Government permits may be necessary for public locations. The author advises making sure the permission is obtained from the right sources. A building owner may not have the right to grant permission for filming inside a tenant's space. A tenant may not have the right to allow cable for filming brought into a building.
Permission may be required to film a decorate art piece. Different court rulings have been reached on this issue. Issues to consider are whether a short focuses on the original art piece, if it is recognizable, and if it is a focal point rather than set dressing.
A prop created for a film should be an original piece. Using a knock-off protected by a copyright still can violate the copyright. A sculptor sued Warner Brothers seeking an injunction to prevent distribution of a movie using a similar sculpture. Warner Brothers settled the suit.
A movie title has to be cleared. Movie titles do not have copyrights. They can be a product protected by trademark. Some movie titles have trademark status. The Motion Picture Association of America registers titles.
A title should not indicate an endorsement from anyone when no endorsement exists.
Errors and omissions insurance protects a film against accidental infringement of a copyright, trademark, person's privacy, etc. Media/Professional and Chubb offers the bulk of this type of insurance.
A final film, called a locked film, should be registered with the Library of Congress.
A copyright infringement can occur if too many specific details of another film are used in a film. A court prevented the release of the movie "Great White" for being too similar to "Jaws."