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First the Contract, Then the Work

Sumerian contract: selling of a field and a ho...

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Before you start – or have someone else start – filming, or writing, or composing, or doing whatever creative thing that’s being contemplated – get the necessary contracts drafted and signed!

At first blush, this advice may seem elementary and far too simple. But in fact it happens so often that producers, directors, writers, musicians and others in creative businesses execute the creative work before nailing down the business details.

Nailing down those business details, and recording them in a signed writing, is a very important action – particularly in businesses that deal in the creative.

Why? Because legal rights to intellectual property (such as visual images, writings, music, etc.) are usually created at the time of the creation, and therefore often vest in (become owned by) the creator at that moment, unless a contract or agreement makes clear that the creation belongs to or is for the benefit of another.

So while it may be the intention of a producer to own the script and story a writer is busily writing, without the proper contract in place the producer may not own anything when the script is finished. It may in fact be the writer’s characters and story and script, with the writer free to do with it as she wishes.

And while it may be the intention of a model to own the rights to the images shot by the photographer, without something in writing before the photographer shoots the images, it may very well be that the model doesn’t have the copyright to those images. She may have the right to object to the commercial use of her image, based on a right to privacy or publicity, but what she intended to have was the copyright – the full and complete ownership of the photos.

Similarly, a producer may intend to own the story and images from a film shoot, but without the proper “work for hire” contracts, it may be that the producer owns none of the above at the end of the day.

The same may result from music composed without the proper “work for hire” contracts, and myriad other situations involving creative works.

And it happens ALL THE TIME. And results in problems after the fact ALL THE TIME.

Save yourself hours of problem solving and worlds of heartache – put an entertainment attorney to good use. Spend a little time and a modest amount of your project funds on the legal protection of your project, keeping the rights and ownership as you intend.

That modest sum spent on solid contracts and agreements will mean keeping your project yours, and being able to market and exploit the project as intended – as opposed to perhaps losing control over what may have consumed scores of hours, and a fair amount of blood, sweat, tears and talent.

As an entertainment attorney, my focus is protecting and advancing your project. Please contact me at your convenience if I may be of assistance.

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