LEGAL ASPECTS OF ACQUIRING OR GRANTING FILM PRODUCTION RIGHTS

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The legal aspects of acquiring and granting intellectual property rights are an important part of major motion picture film production.

[Please note that the Nissenbaum Law Group does not serve as an entertainment agency, nor does it shop its clients for production or distribution deals.]

An integral part of the preparation for filming a major motion picture production is to properly establish and acquire all the underlying rights.  This takes the form of obtaining rights in the underlying work (a prior written work such as a novel, short story, television show or video game), as well as the relevant intellectual property, namely: copyrights, trademarks, name and likeness rights and so forth.

It is interesting to note that, depending upon the situation, a film production company may find itself on both sides of that: acquiring certain underlying rights and granting third parties rights in the film as a whole. The Nissenbaum Law Group has extensive experience drafting and negotiating film rights from the point of view of either the rightsholder or the acquiring party.

Chain of Title is the term that is used to reference the set of documents that prove that the person or entity granting rights has the ownership or a license of the underlying intellectual property to which it is seeking to assign (sell) or license.  This is often a critical precondition to obtaining a film purchase or distribution agreement. Best practice is to have this lined up before a deal is presented, but it is often something that rights-holders take care of just before closing a deal, as well.  Reviewing these legal documents is a key part of the due diligence process for those seeking to acquire such film rights.

When evaluating a grant or acquisition of rights there are some key items that should typically be taken into consideration. They include:

  • Whether the breadth of the rights being granted is sufficient.  Is it the entire body of work or a small subset?  What film rights will be retained under the heading of reserved rights, if any?
  • Whether the work was created by an individual artist/author or several of them working together.  Were other creators’ contributions accomplished as a work-for-hire (something that needs to be nailed down at the beginning, if possible) or were the rights subsequently assigned?
  • Whether the grant of rights is structured as an assignment or a license.
  • If the transaction is structured as a license, whether it will be exclusive or non-exclusive?  What are the broadest rights that can be obtained?  On the other hand, what is the narrowest way to define the rights being licensed so that the others remain available to monetize?
  • Whether or not the underlying rights are protected by copyright and trademark registrations.  If so, are they valid and in good standing?
  • Whether there are any lawsuits, arbitrations or other proceedings or other claims made with respect to the intellectual property rights.
  • Whether the rights are subject to any perfected security interests.

The Nissenbaum Law Group welcomes inquiries from clients involved in any aspect of major motion picture production, including film studios, producers, directors, performers, talent agents, distributors, financers, publicists, cinematographers, soundtrack composers and engineers. The firm not only practices entertainment law from its offices in New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Dallas, Texas; and Union, New Jersey, but also handles matters in other states in accordance with the local multi-jurisdictional rules.

PUBLICATIONS & PRESENTATIONS

Gary D. Nissenbaum, Esq.

 

Laura J. Magedoff, Esq.

  • Augmented Reality: Gotta Protect That IP, by Gary D. Nissenbaum, Esq. and Laura J. Magedoff, Esq., Apptentive, September 22, 2016
  • Potential Legal Approaches to a Cyberbullying Case (Co-author), The Young Lawyer, American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, 2013
  • New York County Lawyer’s Association, EMIPS Committee Comments to New York State Bar Association Report of the Privacy Task Force, Contributing Author, March 2009
  • Wrongful Posting on the Internet: The Privacy You Save Could be Your Own, NJ Lawyer Magazine, April, 2008
  • Panelist, Intellectual Property Protection & Enforcement, New Jersey Bar Association Annual Conference, Atlantic City, NJ, May 2017
  • Panelist, Empower – I Create Nothing. I Own it: A Panel about Establishing and Protecting your Intellectual Property as a Business Asset, New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners’ Annual Conference, New Brunswick, New Jersey, October 2010
  • Moderator, Engage – The most Powerful Commodity I know is Information, New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners’ Annual Conference, New Brunswick, New Jersey, October 2010
  • Panelist, Casino Law 2010: Game On!, 2010 South CLEFest, Atlantic City, NJ, August 2010
  • Presented Seminar, Protecting Your Online Image, Various 2009-Present

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Contact the Nissenbaum Law Group to schedule an appointment at 908-686-8000 or feel free to use the following form to e-mail us. Please include as much information as you can to ensure that we are able to handle your request as quickly as possible.

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Looking for advice?

We're here to help.

Contact the Nissenbaum Law Group to schedule an appointment at 908-686-8000 or feel free to use the following form to e-mail us. Please include as much information as you can to ensure that we are able to handle your request as quickly as possible.

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PLEASE NOTE Meetings by appointment only in Union, NJ; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA & Dallas, TX offices. Legal services generally performed from the Union, NJ office. The firm has attorneys licensed in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and/or the District of Columbia. In limited circumstances, the firm may practice in other states under the prevailing multi-jurisdiction rules or through pro hac vice admission.

 

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