In today´s seminar we discussed one of the stickiest aspects of the film world: legalities. Right off the bat, the big one is copyright/intellectual property, a means that protects ideas and stories you created form being stolen or misused by others. For example, when submitting a script or treatment, elements such as proof of postages and dating can determine when, where and who the work belongs to and what happened prior to production or another major event.
Of course, this leads into who owns what, as rights are varied for any given work and what they serve for, beyond just protecting the original creator. This include broadcast and distribution rights, often handled by sales agents (discussed before), ring fencing rights often handled by the production company behind a project, and moral rights, which prevent the concept in question being used in a manner that goes against the original inception without the copyright holder´s permission. Elhum greatly stressed how key this right was, and how any contract signing should also include mention and examination of this element.
And beyond just the issues of right are many other sectors of red tape, such as defamation (making false claims against an individual or entity, and even a release form will not guarantee free use of the object in question without objection from the original party. Errors and Omissions Insurance can help with this), branding (similar to copyright, and equally as stringent if not more so, such as owning the font that the product´s name is in. This is why you often see fake colas in films, as a company cannot afford nor just mimic Coca Cola or Pepsi), Clearances/permissions, exclusivity (be very clear in dealings what version you´re selling, sometimes even having to negotiate time frames of release) and Fair Use.
Fair Use, especially in the internet age, is a very hot and often tricky topic, as it should allow for the free use of any copyrighted materials under the use of commentary, criticism, satire or education, but even with this, efforts like SOPA and PIPA, have sought to undermine this and claim total control of material. Even crediting the original source does not guarantee fair use, and organizations like Youtube often have a very difficult line they have to walk of respecting their users while also not dealing with lawsuits from major corporations. However, there is also a license that permits the use of works when credited, known as Creative Commons. If you want to see a practical example of all this, watch the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated, which uses clips from a number of high profile films, and yet can still be shown and sold because it falls within Fair Use.
Naturally, this is quite a lot to take in, though I am no stranger to it due to my Youtube career and often dealing with companies filing copyright claims against my reviews, even though they are Fair Use and are non-profit. It can be a very funny thing, and considering how much money could be sent down the drain by being careless here, either in terms of lawsuits or in lost revenue, it´s not something to skip over nor give time to.