Which Country’s Law – Entertainment Law Asked & Answered


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Carlos wrote in with a question about which country's law will apply to his film.

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

Carlos says that he's almost finished raising money for a low-budget Romantic Comedy that includes some parodies of some famous American films. But he's from Mexico, and knows that Mexican law is different, and wants to know if it’s better to register the script and film in the US, to be protected under US laws. He adds that he will obviously carefully respect the rules for parody here in the US. He knows it's ok to make parodies, under certain circumstances, but needs to be sure how to stay out of trouble with the project.

Great Question, Carlos!

First off, I'm a US Attorney, Licensed in California. I don't know much about Mexican law on this or any other subject, so I'm not going to pretend I do. I'm going to share some basic legal information, and these videos should never be construed as giving legal advice. For that, you'd need to hire a lawyer to advise you after a full review of the facts, laws and other circumstances of your particular situation.

OK… so, is it better to register in the U.S. or in Mexico?

Well, both the U.S. and Mexico are signatory to the Berne Convention, the international copyright treaty… so they have agreed to mutually respect each other's laws. The nature, scope and length of copyright protection is fairly consistent from country to country, so I don't think it really matters. But, if you are planning on distributing the film in the US., it probably makes sense to register it here, whether or not you register in your home country first. That way, you'll have a strong “chain of title” to show distributors, and you'll be entitled to things like statutory damages and an award of attorneys' fees if you ever do have to sue someone here for infringement.

You're correct, though about the applicability of the protections for Parody being a function of U.S. Law, primarily. I don't know how Mexico treats parody.

In the U.S., we have our First Amendment protection for free speech, and so we're free to make fun of other artist's work, in order to promote public discussion. So, if your work is actually a parody of the thing you're copying, you're probably well protected in the U.S.

But, if the material is being distributed elsewhere, you *might* be subject to the laws of each country in which it's available. Even though you're in Mexico and the film is registered in the US. So, it's wise to evaluate this on a country-by-country basis. Especially, if you're likely to travel to a country that doesn't recognize parody as a protected form of speech. Especially if those countries are NOT signatories of that treaty I mentioned earlier… the Berne Convention.

Thanks for watching.

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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.

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