Monthly Archives: September 2010

Entertainment Law Update Podcast Episode 14


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In this Episode:

  • follow ups
  • Letterman v. Phoenix?
  • Naked Cowpersons
  • Eminem wins on downloads
  • ASCAP Loses on downloads
  • MADONNA not the only material girl
  • Ivi, Inc. says it doesn't need a license for tv rebroadcasts
  • Righthaven: Troll or Defender?
  • Vernor v. Autodesk – is the first sale doctrine dead?

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Asked and Answered: Is a friend’s suggestion in my screenplay ‘authorship’?


Q:  What happens if a friend, or someone else, makes a suggestion that you think is good and without written permission include the line, scene, or piece of business in your screenplay. Is there now a copyright issue?


A:
Assuming, for the moment, that the friend just blurted out this suggestion, and  you've decided that it really works for your screenplay…. technically, that IDEA is not protected by copyright or any other law.  It's essentially a GIFT, and you're legally free to use it, or not.    IT gets slightly more complicated for lines of dialogue, or original ‘bits', but basically, if they're just  GIVEN to you, you don't owe the friend anything more than your gratitude.

Of course,   This doesn't mean that your “friend” won't sue you, or even that if he does, you'll win.   (And,  even if you do… lawsuits are VERY expensive, even for the winners).

You see, this is actually less about the copyright, than it is about the contract between you and the friend.

“Wait!”, you say.  “There is no contract!”

Are you sure?

Despite Samuel Goldwyn's famous quip that “An oral contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on”, Contracts need not be in writing to be enforceable.  So, let's look more deeply at the situation.  If you made your friend any kind of promise that he or she relied upon in giving you the suggestion, you MAY have just entered into an oral contract… a collaboration agreement, and this person is now your co-writer.

Now, joint authorship does depend on the mutual intent of the parties to co-own the work in question, so if you're careful not to make any promises, or give any indication that you'll “share”, you should be ok…

But, ultimately, you have to let your conscience be your guide.

This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for readers’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.


Thinking of Producing it yourself? subscribe to my FREE e-course “6 ways to Finance A Feature Film” by visiting https://firemark.com/minicourse

Asked & Answered: How do I protect myself when I submit my idea?

Q: I have written and produced a webseries and I would like to submit it to different companies PR and Advertising departments to see if I could possibly sell the idea.
How do I protect my footage and idea, and still try to push this webseries to as many companies as possible.

A: Protecting your work (whether a web-series, screenplay, treatment, or whatever) is a multi-faceted aproach. Here are my suggestions:

1. Register your copyright for the scripts, episodes, etc. (note that copyright law doesn't protect “ideas”, only particular expression of ideas. What this means is that nobody can protect the ‘idea' for a show, only the specific way they have expressed that idea.

2. Keep good ideas to yourself until/unless you have an agreement from those you share it with that you'll be PAID if they wish to proceed with it. The agreement doesn't need to be very formal, it can even be oral, as long as there's a way to prove it existed.

3. Only share your material with people you know and trust.

4. Keep good records about who sees the material, and under what circumstances.

Of course once the show is up on the web, it's available for people to see fairly freely. If you ARE copied, consult a lawyer.

This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for readers’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.


Thinking of Producing it yourself? subscribe to my FREE e-course “6 ways to Finance A Feature Film” by visiting https://firemark.com/minicourse

Asked & Answered: Is it safe to write a new work based on a deceased author’s book?

Q: I have an excellent screenplay concept I’m into – Inspired by a previously published literary book, written by a now-deceased author & screenwriter whose trade and screen writing professional work was quite successful.  The publisher of the original “book” is contemporary The author’s literary affairs are now handled by an “estate Trustee,” and a capable Hollywood industry literary agent is still in… Continue Reading

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