Monthly Archives: March 2014

Episode 48 – Google wins some, loses some, and more.

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How to protect a concept for a film when making an oral pitch?

In this video, Entertainment Lawyer Gordon Firemark answers a question about how to protect a concept for a film when making an oral pitch.

http://youtu.be/94dcNiTrdN8
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TRANSCRIPT:

I'm Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer questions from entertainment industry professionals like you, so you can take your career to the next level.

I'll give my answer in just a second.

So, Kelsey wrote in that she sent her logline to a producer, explaining that her concept for the film is something that's never been done before. The producer has now contacted her to schedule a phone conversation about it, and she's wondering if it's dangerous to reveal the concept by phone without any recorded evidence that there's a transaction or agreement in place about what will happen if he likes it. She wants to know what she should do to seize this opportunity but still protect her idea.

First, I should point out that if all you're pitching is a ‘concept' or idea, there's not much protection offered in the law. Copyright protection only covers fully expressed works that embody those ideas. The ideas themselves may not be entitled to any protection. So, it's important that you have some kind of agreement, however informal, that you'll be paid and/or hired if the producer likes what you pitch.

There'a a latin proverb that says “Scripta manent verba volant”. Translated, that means “spoken words fly away, written words remain” And I think you'll be hard pressed to find a lawyer who'd disagree with the idea that a written contract is better than an unwritten one.

But the fact is, oral pitches happen all the time in hollywood. In other businesses, folks use confidential non-disclosure agreements to deal with this kind of thing. But in show business, that's just not done. So, the next best thing is to do your best to document the exchange both before- and after-the-fact.

So, confirm the appointment by email. Make sure you are explicit and clear about your intention to submit the material you're pitching for sale, along with your services as a writer. If possible, get the producer to acknowledge this by return email.

Then, after the meeting, follow up with another email or a handwritten note thanking the producer for his or her time. This is another opportunity to be clear about your intentions. This is an offer to sell your material and writing services.

And, that's about all you can really do. Of course it also makes sense to be sure you're dealing with reputable people. Real, established producers don't need to steal ideas for their films.

Do you like these Question and Answer videos? Well, then show me some love. Subscribe, will ya?And, if you have a question for me, head on over to firemark.com/questions or just click the button.

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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 viewers'’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

Can choir instructor photocopy purchased sheet music?

In this video, Entertainment Lawyer Gordon Firemark answers a question about the rights to copy sheet music for use in a school setting.

http://youtu.be/ENdZHm7IVX8
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TRANSCRIPT:

I've got a quick one for you today. It deals with the rights to copy sheet music for use in a school setting. Stay tuned.

Q: Phil is a school vocal music instructor, who asks: If I purchase 30 pieces of choral music for use in my classroom, am I allowed to make 30 copies of that music to distribute to students so that they can annotate and edit according to our performance practices? When the performance is complete we would destroy all 30 copies.

A: Phil, I'm sorry, but this is a no-go. When you buy a printed copy of sheet music, you get the right to do certain things like read, study, and practice the music. Heck, you can even sell those specific copies under something called the “first sale doctrine”. But what you don't get is the right to make additional copies… even if you plan to destroy them later.

It's copyright infringement, plain and simple. If you get caught, the consequences can be significant.

When I was in school, we were taught to make our notations and markings on music in pencil, and to erase the markings when we're done with the charts… And that's still the recommended approach today. — Hey, if you like these Q&A videos, please subscribe. It's easy.

And by all means share, Plus, like or tweet these on your favorite social networks. If you've got a question you'd like me to answer… head on over to https://firemark.com/questions.

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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 viewers'’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

Learn the secrets to successful crowdfunding!

If you’ve got a project you’re thinking about crowdfunding, you’re in luck. Crowdfunding works… if you know how to do it right. My friend and client Adam Leipzig, CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, will be conducting his “Going Beyond the Basics” Crowdfunding Webinar on March 18th. This webinar will teach you the basics of crowdfunding… Continue Reading

Just. Don’t. Do it.

No shooting until EVERY member of your cast and crew has signed a contract.   Seriously.   Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a startling ruling in a case involving an independent film. In the Innocence of Muslims case, the Court ruled that an actress who played a small role in the… Continue Reading

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