What Kind of Rights do I Need When Clearing my Film?

In the film clearance process, we collaborate with filmmakers to “clear” third party rights in their film. Read our article on film clearance here. So what rights do you need to include in your film clearance grid? Read on for tips on how to fill out your clearance grid and also learn how third party content can be implicated throughout your film.

Film clearance ensures you’ve cleared all third-party rights that appear in your film. We like to help our filmmaker clients keep their costs down, so we recommend they carefully go through each scene, identify all third-party rights implicated and input this information into the film clearance grid before we take our first pass at the film. The more time you spend thoroughly inputting this information, the more you keep your legal costs down!

A third-party right can be implicated in many ways. Below we’ve outlined the common types of third party rights and what to be on the lookout for, mainly — people, images, music, logos and business signage.

Rights of People

Each time a new person appears in your film you need their permission to allow their name and likeness to be used in your film. This is because persons have a “right of publicity” which means they have the right to control the commercial exploitation of their name and likeness. For actors, you secure this permission when you ask them to sign an appearance release. The appearance release should be used to get permission from anyone who appears in your film, in any capacity.

Even if the person is merely passing by, you still should seek permission, or post a public placard and possibly blur the face out if you do not have permission. Make a new entry in the film clearance grid each time a new person appears in your film. Insert the timecode, under the “type” column indicate “appearance” describe the person(s) referred to and indicate the clearance status (i.e. whether you’ve obtained written permission, verbal permission, or have no permission).

Location Rights

For each and every location you shoot at—you should have permission to shoot there. This is done through a location release. If your location is a public street, park, or building, you may need a permit from an appropriate government authority.

In our clearance grid, add a new entry each time a new location appears in your film and indicate the clearance status (i.e. whether you’ve obtained written permission, verbal permission, or have no permission).

Copyright Rights

Additionally, you need the right to use another person’s copyright or work that appears in your film. A “work” can take many forms such as a photograph in the background, film clips, music, written text, identifiable locations, buildings, or monuments, stock photography, clip-art, other artwork and other materials displayed over the internet.

For each work, add a new entry in the film clearance grid. In the “type” column describe the type of work, for example, image, clip, or music and indicate the clearance status (i.e. whether you’ve obtained written permission, verbal permission, or have no permission).

Trademarks, Logos and Business Signage

Each time a trademark, logo or business sign appears in your film you may or may not need permission. Of course it’s always better to obtain permission than to not have it. But, generally you can use another person’s trademark within your film as long as the trademark or the product bearing the trademark is used as it was intended to be used without any consequences of its use being abnormal or out of the ordinary. While you have every right to dress your set with real products, you cannot disparage a trademark. As long as you don’t misrepresent the source of a product—there is typically no prohibition of the use of a trademark in a film.

In our film clearance grid, for each trademark, logo, or business sign indicate the trademark owner, describe the mark, and indicate the clearance status (i.e. whether you’ve obtained written permission, verbal permission, or have no permission).

By Jenna Macek 12/2/16

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Disclaimer: Although this article may be considered advertising under applicable law and ethical rules, the information in this article is presented for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice and this content does not form an attorney-client relationship. If you would like further information, Wilkinson Mazzeo would love to hear from you, so please feel free to reach out with any questions!

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