Own-it | Intellectual Property Know-How for Creative Businesses


I work in film, video or TV – what do I need to know about IP?

Published 01.11.08 at 09:30

Creators involved in the production of film, video and television material confront many complex IP-related issues, including:

  • Copyright and Related Rights
  • Performers' Rights
  • Moral Rights
  • Rights over Confidential Information
  • Privacy and Data Protection Issues
  • Trade Mark Issues
  • Content restrictions (including defamation and obscenity)

The production of most films and television programs involve multiple creative contributions; including those of the director, scriptwriter, soundtrack composer, actors and camera people.  

Your IP rights depend upon what position you occupy in this chain and how you are able to negotiate to retain/exploit them. In particular, copyright is a central asset in the financial exploitation of a film and this asset is licensed and sold at different stages from the film's development to its production and distribution.

For those involved in producing and directing films it is also essential to obtain clearance of all IP rights and other relevant rights. The IP rights are often known as (i) the 'underlying rights' in the film; for example, the copyright in the novel and the screen-play upon which a film is based. There are also (ii) rights in 'existing material' which are more peripheral to the film but require clearance for example, a film may reproduce copyright protected visual material (such as a painting or an advertising billboard).

Failure to secure clearance can lead to expensive legal disputes. A good example is the case brought against the producers of the film Twelve Monkeys by the artist/architect Lebbeus Woods for allegedly constructing an architectural space in the film based upon one of his drawings. Recently, a student (Chris Mourkabel) was sued by Paramount Pictures for allegedly infringing the copyright in a screen play to be used for an Oliver Stone film on 9/11.  The studio claims that a 12-minute art house film posted on the internet by the student is based upon a bootleg version of Stone's film script.

You can download the following factsheets from the Film & TV section of the Own-it Factsheets page.

Content supplied by Daniel McClean. Photo credit: Kevin Dooley


Please note that this article discusses the legal position in the UK at the time of publication. It provides general information only but is not to be regarded as legal advice. You must take advice from a specialist lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Further, you should seek additional legal advice when dealing with parties based in other parts of the world or works originating from other parts of the world as the legal position may vary.


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