COPYRIGHTS, CLEARANCES & RELEASES
Public screening of your project requires that it be “cleared” so that you do not have to defend yourself from lawsuits brought by injured parties. You must have permission to use what belongs to someone else – that is – their likeness, their personal property and their intellectual property (I.P.).
THE FAIR USE ACT
There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the Fair Use Act. Essentially, it provides for a small portion of a copyrighted work to be used for teaching, criticism, or news without the permission of the copyright holder. This video provides a very good explanation of Fair Use.
If you choose not to obtain all the necessary clearances, waivers, rights and permissions, your project should be limited to “classroom” screenings only. If you don’t obtain clearances, you run the risk of having your project declined for film festivals and other public venues as well as opening yourself up to a lawsuit.
This guide is intended to give you a general idea of what is needed in the way of clearances. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor should it be construed as legal advice.
LOGOS, BRANDNAMES, AND TRADEMARKS
When distinctive personal property that is identifiable with any person or entity (a logo like the Nike “swoosh” or a trademark like the Coca-Cola logo) is filmed in a scene, you may need consent in writing to use such property.
Most importantly, you may not photograph any trademark or logo that presents a company or entity represented, or its product, in a detrimental or defamatory way. To do so would expose you to a lawsuit for slander and/or libel.
If the property is non-distinctive background and your shot doesn’t linger on it you do not need permission to film it. For example, if you are filming in a bar or grocery store, keeping your shots wide enough to include many products and not focusing on one, permission will not be needed.
If you choose, as many productions do, to use fictitious products there are several props houses that have cleared material (labels, posters, signs, etc.) available to rent or sell. If you provide these companies with original artwork and text, they can also manufacture props and set dressing (food packages, posters, magazines, etc.).
Earl Hays Press ISS Studio Graphics
10707 Sherman Way 9545 Wentworth St.
Sun Valley, CA 91352 Sunland, CA 91040
818 765 0700 818 -951-5600
There must be written consent from authors, creators and writers of all material – including quotations from copyrighted works used in the production – authorizing the use of that material. As of this date, copyright protection extends for the life of the artist – or copyright holder – plus 70 years. In the case of copyrights owned by corporations, the protection lasts for 95 years. For more information go to copyright.gov
We recommend that you avoid using copyrighted material.
Whenever possible, consider using fictitious names, companies and products to avoid problems. If you need to use actual names, artwork and/or products here are the steps toward achieving clearance:
- Determine if your script includes any copyrighted material or references.
- Determine who holds the rights to the material or whether the material is in the public domain.
- Obtain permission or “clearance” to use the material not in the public domain.
CHARACTER NAMES, ADDRESSES, PHONE NUMBERS, LICENSE PLATES, GRAVESTONES
Where the work is fictional, in part or in whole, the names of all characters must be fictional. There are obviously very many people named John Smith, but you have to make sure there is no one named John Smith, who matches your character in age, ethnicity, address, occupation, etc.
You cannot use real phone numbers or addresses in your fictional work. That would be considered an invasion of privacy. The telephone numbers 555-0100 to 555-0199 will never be assigned to any individual or business and are often used in films and television.
Prop houses have phony licenses plates for rent so no one can claim you used their license without permission.
Several companies offer script research services. They will simply tell you whether your script contains copyrighted material, if your character names are actual names and general information about your script. Here are two:
|Act One Script Clearance / de Forest Research |
230 N. Maryland Ave. Ste 201
Glendale, CA 91206 818.240.2416
|Marshall Plumb Research |
4150 Riverside Drive, Suite 209
Burbank, CA 91505-4149
Voice: (818) 848-7071
Below is a company that not only does the initial research, but will clear the items as well. They do not offer student discounts.
535 Panama Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90814
FILM CLIPS, TAPES, ARTWORK AND STILL PHOTOS
If you plan to use any film, television, Internet clips, you must obtain permission from the owner. If the clip is from a professionally produced company, you may have to obtain permission from any professional guilds and/or unions (Writer’s Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild, the Director’s Guild of America or the American Federation of Musicians.) Be aware that there is often a charge for these releases.
Clearances of clips with music can be even more lengthy and complex, as well as more expensive. (See the music section.) If the clip is from a home movie or other non-commercial production, it is necessary to get permission from the people who appear in the clip, as well as the person who shot the footage.
To use a photograph, you need the permission of the copyright holder and a release from the person(s) in the photo as well as the photographer. This includes family photos. Getty Images is one of the largest and a very good source of photographic images. In some cases, there is no charge. There are many other services as well.
Tattoos are considered artwork and as such, need to be cleared by artist. If the actual tattoo image is a copyrighted image, that will need additional clearance. Cleared tattoos can be purchased from several make up companies. Here’s one of the largest:
Stock footage is a good source for cleared materials to use for video playback or plate footage for your film. There are many companies listed in L.A.411 as well as on the Internet. Here are two very large companies with a wide variety of footage.
You need people’s written permission to use their likeness (that is, their face) in your film
if they are recognizable on screen. However, if you are shooting a crowd scene and if you do not focus on any one person or show their image for more than a second or two, then you do not need their permission.