What Chain of Title Means for Your Film Project
Chain of title in the film world is often overlooked. As many filmmakers consider themselves auteurs and several production houses are classified as private entities, the question of ownership is often overlooked in spite of it being rather complicated.
Working in a creative field often indicates legal precautions are left aside—especially when it comes to chain of title. However, the seizure, control, and transfer of creative work happens constantly.
This recurring transference leads film and legal professionals to question the concept of ownership. Specifically, we are wise to think about how everyone involved in a project may lay partial claim to ownership.
A recent lawsuit sheds light on this situation.
The Black Swan Lawsuit of 2015
Even though Black Swan released years earlier, film lawsuits are known to stretch for years and years—often stalling or completely stopping otherwise successful films.
In this case, the suit was closed and reopened for appeal—proving that legal battles are not a one-and-done ordeal. The key to sustaining your project is to obtain proactive legal protection that safeguards your work.
The film lawsuits we profile on this blog generally concentrate on disputes between an existing movie and a new one. It’s not often you hear about film interns suing the production house they worked for.
That’s exactly what happened to the movie Black Swan. These interns were unpaid, and when the film won a number of awards, the suit was filed.
The plaintiff’s claim argued that, since the film’s interns performed similar tasks to paid employees, the producers owed them a fair paycheck. In fact, the suit sparked a new debate about interns’ legal right to sue for back pay.
In the end, the interns did not receive the desired outcome. According to a court statement, “In sum, we agree with the defendants that the proper question is whether the intern or the employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship.”
This idea proclaims that the intern relationship is more of a favor than a job-like responsibility.
How this lawsuit highlights chain of title.
There are many people involved in making a film. The director, actors, screenwriters, and producers are the obvious examples; however, we can’t forget about set-builders, gaffers, second unit directors, editors, and other crew members.
The multifaceted team proves that anyone can lay partial claim to film ownership. The Black Swan interns’ lawsuit makes this self-evident. If it’s not pay-based, then intellectual property ownership will come into play.
As a filmmaking professional, you want complete ownership of your intellectual property. And there’s a process that coincides with that desire.
It is crucial that every worker (intern or otherwise) who contributes to your project has properly assigned, transferred, or otherwise waived his or her contribution rights.
Otherwise, you heighten the risk of a film lawsuit that could potentially squash your project. It’s amazing how detailed chain of title protective measures must be. Even crew deal memos must contain just the right language to satisfy both your distributor and E & O insurance carrier.
The Clearance Lab exists to do the hard work for you, so you can create your masterpiece without concern about ownership or any other legal threat.
Click here to learn how The Clearance Lab can help you protect your chain of title.