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Film Production

Articles that discuss legal issues that arise in the making of motion pictures.

Movie-Making Partnerships

Often when filmmakers begin their first movie, it is with a partner. It might be a film school classmate or a friend with a similar vision. If you’re in this situation, be sure you understand what you’re getting into. A partnership is legally very similar to a marriage, except that no one has to pronounce […]

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Common Myths of “Fair Use”

Most people have heard the term “fair use” in the context of copyright, but it seems that very few really understand it. They seem to think it gives them the right to use someone else’s work under certain conditions. First of all, fair use is not a “right” at all, it is an “affirmative defense.” […]

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Why Form A Production Company?

For many filmmakers, the first step in the production process is to create a business entity. There are several reasons to do this. The most obvious, of course, is to be able to raise money. But there are other reasons. Types of Entities The types of business entities that are most commonly used for film […]

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Entertainment Contracts: Part Two–Clauses to Include

In my last blog article, I wrote about the basics of every contract. But there are a few other clauses that should be in every entertainment contract, although these are sometimes overlooked. Here is a brief (and I emphasize the word brief) description of some of those paragraphs that should be included. As always, for […]

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Employees, Independent Contractors, and Interns

Often in the production of a film, the discussion turns to whether to hire crew members as employees or independent contractors. However, this is not really up to the producers, it is determined by government regulations. This article discusses those regulations.

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Understanding Entertainment Contracts: Deliverables

In the context of a distribution agreement, deliverables are the materials that a distributor needs in order to release the film. It might include a negative from which to make prints for theatrical release, or it might be a color corrected video version for television broadcast or DVD release.

Deliverables also include publicity materials, such as photographs, biographical materials, and perhaps behind-the-scenes footage.

Whatever the form of your other deliverables, you will always need to deliver the legal documentation proving that you own all the elements of your picture.

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5 Myths About Copyright

In the olden days (before 1989), in order for a copyright to be in effect and remain effective, the author of the work was required to give notice to the public by putting a copyright notice on the work. No longer.

Copyright is effective as soon as the work is created. There is no requirement that the author put a notice of copyright on his or her work. There are advantages, however, to doing so. One is that it puts other people on notice that you are claiming the copyright

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Raising Money For Your Movie from Investors

First of all, you need to be aware that raising money from investors is governed by securities laws. A “security” exists when a person has invested value in a common enterprise with an expectation of profit derived from the efforts of others. What this means is that someone not actually involved in making your film is giving you money because they expect your movie to make a profit and they will share in those profits. The upside for the filmmaker (and the reason most filmmakers like this method of fund raising) is that the investors are taking a risk with you and you don’t have to pay back the investment unless your film makes money. This article discussing the risks of raising money from investors.

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Submitting Material to Film And Television Companies

While studio executives don’t usually steal ideas from submissions they receive, other people along the way might be tempted. Receptionists, messengers, and assistants may read your script. They may be struggling writers or producers themselves. They may like your concept and characters, but think they can write it better. Especially if they are new to the business and ill-informed, they may not consider it stealing to rewrite a version of your script and call it their own.

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Using Snippets of Music in Your Film

If your film is a documentary or news piece that comments on music (whether your comment is positive or negative), you may be entitled to use segments of the music to illustrate your point. If your film is a fiction narrative and the characters happen to be discussing a particular piece of music, whether that can be considered fair use is a bit more of a gray area.

United States Copyright law (in 17 U.S.C. § 107) contains a provision for “fair use of a copyrighted work” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. This provision allows, among other things, journalists and critics to quote passages of a work in their reportage on that work.

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