Whether it’s a film, TV or music project, before you can release your finished project to the world, you must make sure that you have cleared all the copyrights appearing in your project.
If you created the entire project independently and did not use the work of another, then you have nothing to worry about. But, if you didn’t, then here are some tips to keep you on the right side of the copyright law.
1. Make a list of all copyrighted material such as music samples, artwork and famous buildings.
2. For each item on your list, make sure you have a corresponding license that grants you the rights you want to be used, in the medium you choose.
3. Stay within the boundaries of the license. If your license only gives you theatrical rights in the United States, don’t broadcast over the internet to Asia. Exceeding the scope of a license will result in copyright infringement.
4. Make sure the person or company you obtain the rights from actually has the authority to license those rights.
5. No matter how small or simple the copyright, it must be cleared. Consider the “Hangover Part II” case. A tattoo artist, S. Victor Whitmill, tried to block the release of the movie, claiming that Warner Bros. did not have the right to copy the tattoo that he created for Mike Tyson in 2003 onto the face of actor Ed Helms’ character, Stu. The parties eventually settled.
As we can see, failing to clear all copyrights, no matter how minor, can potentially lead to serious money damages.
Now you have these tips, you are on your way to having an infringement-free release.
Eldonie S. Mason Esq. is the founding member/attorney and arbitrator at Mason Firm, LLC, in East Brunswick. Visit masonfirmllc.com.
Kind of ironic that this page has a link to the story about the North Bergen, NJ high school production of “Alien: The Play” that DIDN’T “clear all copyrights”