Clearance & Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television
For filmmakers, navigating the issues of clearance can be difficult and daunting. Obtaining licenses to feature clips or images can be impossible or expensive, but going without licenses could halt your film from ever getting to distribution.
Recall the film Blackfish, a documentary about Sea World’s capturing and subsequent handling of orca whales. The film is highly critical of the marine amusement park, and garnered attention for its disenchanting portrayal. A certain hurdle for the filmmakers was getting around the fact that the film is made up of footage captured by former Sea World employees. Since Sea World owned the copyright to that footage and would never have allowed the footage to be used in Blackfish, the option of licensing was impracticable. Yet, the film was produced, distributed, and critically acclaimed. How did the filmmakers get away with it?
Or consider Escape From Tomorrow, a fictional guerilla film secretly shot with hidden cameras inside Disney World and Disneyland. The picture is a fantasy-horror story that follows a family’s day at Disney World. The lead character is a father who promised his family a happy vacation. But while at the park, the father has a meltdown and his perception of the park becomes delusional. Surprisingly, Disney did not pursue legal action. Why not?
To solve the quandary of the above questions, take a tour of the recently released 4th Edition of Clearance & Copyright.
Michael Donaldson and Lisa Callif are the co-authors of the book. They’re also the partners of the law firm Donaldson + Callif in Beverly Hills, which represents documentary and independent filmmakers. However, both Donaldson and Callif acknowledge that the 4th edition of Clearance & Copyright was a team effort, involving every single person in their office. Their work paid off, and the latest revamp is a modern, fresh and eye-catching legal guide for everything film and television.
Clearance & Copyright contains 26 comprehensive chapters, which cover topics like the basics of copyright and fair use, how to acquire the rights to someone else’s property, how to hire a screenwriter, how to obtain errors and omissions insurance, and how to clear all the music in your film.
Undoubtedly, this book will help a producer of a film or TV show make it through production and distribution, without a legal battle. For anyone working in this field, this guide is an unparalleled primer. Whether your production is documentary, feature, scripted, fiction, nonfiction, or inspired by real events, Clearance & Copyright is guaranteed to be worth the read.
The first three editions of Copyright & Clearance already garnered a strong reputation. The thoughtful explanations and clear examples have helped lawyers, students and filmmakers alike. Ted Sarandos of Netflix has even said, “I love this book and use it often.” Likewise, Donaldson has previously used the book as an instructional text with UCLA’s Producer Program, where he occasionally teaches.
Moreover, the latest version is more than just a facelift. This is a page one rewrite. Every chapter was overhauled to include the most recent case law and the freshest examples.
The 4th edition also hosts some new added features. In order to more fully illustrate a point being made in the text, there are URLs to audiovisual clips, all of which are permissibly available by virtue of the Fair Use Doctrine of copyright. These clips are especially useful for students and filmmakers who need visual guidance.
Additionally, there is an appendix of every different type of form. If you need a form template of an Interview Release or a Location Agreement, for example, then simply message the provided email address and a clean Word version will automatically be sent back to you. Voila!
If you need extra legal help and would like a local or specialized lawyer, the same email method is also used to send you an updated lawyer referral list.
The book is so comprehensive that one might wonder whether the attorneys are working themselves out of a job. Yet, Callif notes that the book is both helpful to the client and the attorney: “This guide makes our clients better clients, because they’re more educated on the issues. They become a better utilizer of legal resources.”
Besides, there’s always more work for an attorney to do. Donaldson notes, “If someone has a garden variety legal situation, then the book may be sufficient. But if you’re making a movie like Room 237, which covers nine possible interpretations of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and features 30% of that film, then you might need a hand.”