Movie making – A tale of woes.


“We don’t make movies to make money; we make money to make more movies.” – Walt Disney

Movie Producers or Movie Production houses are often referred to as money making machines, but where there are riches; there are also a multitude of woes. In this post, we speak about some of the legal challenges that movie producers often face. Keeping in mind that it is always easier to list the problems than to find the solutions to them, we have jotted down a few quick solutions which could minimize the risks that most aspiring Producers and established Producers often face.

“This is the script I left at your doorstep!”

This is one of the most common issues that a Producer faces. It happens too very often that a Producer is smashed with a legal notice for the story or the script being used in the making of a movie. This happens either on the announcement of the film or after the release of the film. Most of the times, the law suits are filed in the Court for copyright infringement praying for an injunction to stop the theatrical release of the film or after the release of the film, seeking to stop the future exploitation of the film on any other medium. Situations like these are not completely avoidable and this is why, Producers need to have a proper Non- Disclosure Agreement in place along with Submission Release forms whenever receiving any scripts from the writer/author.

“This Music is mine!”

Many a times, movie producers are embroiled into legal suits due to the unauthorized use of third party intellectual property such as music, images, posters, costumes etc. It is very important for a Producer to have proper assignments or licenses with the owners of the copyrighted work that the Producer wishes to use. A few important clauses that the Producer needs to ensure are that the rights secured, are for perpetuity and applicable worldwide. The license should allow the Producer to use the work in any manner that he intends to use it and on all formats in which the film would be released. The Consideration to be paid and the Credits to be given, have to be clearly mentioned in the Agreement to avoid future disputes.

“You violated our Trademark!”

When watching a movie, one is able to view different kinds of brands on the screen. Few of them are incidental in nature and a few of them are intentional. While shooting a movie, the shot could cover numerous advertisement posters and promotional material which are incidental in nature and have no significance in the movie. Such usage is safe only as long as, the display of the posters or brands is not derogatory or defamatory in any manner. On the other hand if there is intentional use of the brand where there is a proper mention of the brand along with commercial aspects attached to it, there is a huge possibility of trademark infringement, passing off, misrepresentation and false endorsement. To avoid such legal hassles, Producers must ensure that they avoid the usage of any brands in the film without proper license or having an In-film placement deal.

“This is immoral, obscene and hurts our religious sentiment”

In the enthusiasm to grab attention and generate waves of publicity, movie makers often go overboard and include obscene content in the movies. The ruckus that follows this in the form of protests and agitations only increases the curiosity of the audience and boosts the box-office revenue. Although a clever strategy, it sometimes backfires, when the Courts step in and place a ban on the screening of the movie. Usage of any content in an obscene or defamatory and derogatory manner should always be avoided. The Producers must ensure that the usage of any content does not intentionally hurt the social or religious sentiments of any section of the society.
Authored by Sharada Kalmadi