10 Tips To Keep Your Film Legal

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Filmmaking can be a challenging and exciting process, but it’s important to make sure that you keep your film legal. Here are some tips to help you stay on the right side of the law.

Making a movie is no small task. Aside from all of the creative challenges, there are also a number of legal issues that need to be considered. From copyrights and trademarks to union regulations and releases, it’s important to make sure that your film is legally compliant. Here are some tips to help you stay on the right side of the law:

Make sure you have permission to use copyrighted material. This includes music, footage, and images. It’s also important to credit any sources correctly.

1. All music, even a short riff, must be cleared unless it is royalty-free music. Most royalty-free music has a license you should read carefully to understand how you can use it and for how long. Keep a copy of this license with the permanent video files.

2. All clips from a copyrighted film must be cleared, This includes the music, and may include recognizable people in the film, as well as the director and writers. Unless the footage is Public Domain or Creative Commons video, you need to write permission to use it.

3. If you ask for permission, that is considered proof that on that date, you believed you needed permission.

4. You have a right to make a realistic film and this means that product names and trademarks are OK to film, BUT there are some important conditions: If the product is part of the story or if a character comments on it, or if the camera stays on it for more than a moment or two, you need to get permission.

5. If you cannot get permission, you must create your own work, not a knock-off of the work in question.

6. All permissions must be in writing. Some may argue that verbal on-camera permission is valid. It may be, but that could only be determined in court. So why risk it? And besides distributors may require the written version.  Keep a permanent copy of the release. Permanent means it is not a computer file.

7. Before asking permission, always have a second choice in mind. If your first choice says no, you at least have an alternative.

8. Filming people without their permission is usually legal when they are in a public place. Nevertheless, private people (as opposed to movie stars and the like) have a right to remain private. And even if you are legally in the right, a distributor may just choose to pass on your project because of such legal issues.

9. Never use the name of an identifiable person, a license plate, or a street address in a video. TV reality shows are careful to blur out written names, license plates, and street addresses. The blurring is a lot more subtle than it used to be. In fact, it often just looks like there is no detail to be seen. Blurring is intended to hide the identity of people, places, cars, and more. These decisions are dictated by the show’s legal departments.

10. If you’re going to make films, you must understand the legal issues. For many important videos, you will at some point need to hire an attorney. Before you do so, it is recommended you read a book by an attorney who practices either intellectual property law or entertainment law.

With these tips in mind, you should be able to make your film without the fear of legal repercussions. It’s important that you have some idea of what you are doing before starting production on any project. You can’t let anything slip by if it will affect how your movie is viewed or distributed once completed. The more knowledge and understanding of the law you have, the better!

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