Making movies, documentaries and digital projects can take years. The film Gangs of New York took ten years to prepare and finish, The Fighter with Mark Wahlberg – seven years and Jamie Fox reports that he studied the character of Ray for at least seven years before filming. Given the lengthy times it takes to make a movie, what happens if the copyright is transferred and it takes…a few months linger than anticipated…a few years?
Producing intellectual property is no joke! It takes diligence, time and a team of professionals who know what they are doing and even then, it still does not always go as planned. If there is one piece of good news in the Third Circuit in Federal Court ruled that a copyright transfer need not be contemporaneous to validate oral transfer of the copyright, but that there must be extrinsic evidence demonstrating that the oral transfer actually took place.
What does this mean? It means if you have a written contract void of expirations dates, generally referred to as an option that you are not under a time constraint of any exact detail. If you are in the process of producing and you have a paper trail, hold the ship steady and keep moving if you are threatened with infringement.
If yoy have an oral agreement, which is not the best method of contract, you will need good strong evidence that the original copyright owner had the forethought, intention and actual consent to transfer.
How do you avoid this if you are a producer?
Don’t option if you can, transfer the copyright with a deferred payment? Is this ethical? Producers put a lot of time and money into development and they need to protect the word they are about to begin and the efforts, contacts and money they are about to spend.
Get the transfer before you produce! Or produce with the copyright owner and get a joint transfer with rights.
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