Essential Agreements for every Movie Producer

Production of a Cinematographic film demands a lot of time and resources. Since, all of the financial resources are invested by the Producer, copyright law has recognized the Producer as the author of the cinematographic film, even though a cinematographic film is an amalgamation of several works that are entitled for independent copyright protection. The fact that a cinematographic film is created by the combination of several independently copyrightable works,  makes it all the more important for a Producer to acquire all the rights pertaining to these separate works so as to ensure the unhindered exploitation of the film. In this post, we will be examining the various agreements that are crucial for a movie producer to ensure effective exploitation of the cinematographic film.

Most of the below mentioned agreements are similar in nature owing to the common clauses in them, the primary one being the assignment or acquisition by the producer of the intellectual property rights over the work created.

  1. Director Agreement: The scope of services under a Director Agreement would include rendering services such as directing the movie, participation in the promotional events related to the movie and other such customary services related to the direction of a movie. Though the Director is not considered as any form of author with respect to a film under the Indian copyright law, the Agreement shall also have an intellectual property clause wherein the Director acknowledges the intellectual property rights of the Producer over the film. In order to ensure the complete exploitation of the movie, the Agreement must also stipulate that the Producer would have complete freedom in the creation of prequels, sequels, adaptation or translation even without engaging the same Director. Apart from any monetary consideration, as per the industrial practice, the Producer shall be under an obligation to provide due credits to the Director in the movie in lieu of his services.
  2. Writer Agreement: While most of the clauses in the Writer Agreement remain broadly similar to those in the Director Agreement, the acquisition of intellectual property rights over the script of the movie by the Producer becomes highly important since, the Writer is considered as the author of the literary work, i.e. the script, and is entitled for separate copyright protection under the Indian copyright law. The Producer would also want a written commitment from the Writer for the rendering of his services in the creation of prequels, sequels or adaptation if the Producer intends to do so at a later point of time. The Producer, as prescribed under the copyright law, is required to recognize the moral rights of the author in the script.
  3. Music Composer Agreement: From an IP perspective, the ‘Music Composer Agreement’ must contain adequate intellectual property clauses that assign the intellectual property rights over the musical composition to the Producer for exploitation as part of the movie across all platforms that are commercially in use, across all territories and for a duration of the term of the copyright. The Producer must in turn pay royalties to the Music Composer for the exploitation of the musical composition and must also provide due credits.
  4. Lyricist Agreement: The Lyricist Agreement is also made on the same lines as that of the Music Composer Agreement.
  5. Actor/Singer/Performer Agreement: Owing to the recognition of the Performer’s rights under the Indian Copyright Act in 1994, a detailed agreement that enables the Producer to exploit the film in any manner whatsoever without any hindrances from the actor/singer/performer is crucial.
  6. Licensing Agreements: Licensing Agreements enable the commercial exploitation of the movie across various platforms. This would be possible only if the aforementioned agreements are properly executed in such a manner that the Producer fully owns the rights to exploit the movie. Licensing Agreements may be of various types depending on the platforms as well as the nature of the content that is being licensed.

 Authored by Thomas Joseph