0333 014 4568

Music & Film - Film Licences & Film Assignments

Managing what you can do with your production

Film Licences

The road to completing a film is typically a long and winding route. However, once you have successfully navigated the dangers, you will find yourself in a position to reap the benefits of your hard work. Once you have completed a film, and assuming you own all the relevant intellectual property rights, you are able to lend it or sell it as you would any other property.

A film maker will own the completed film unless it has been assigned to someone else, such as a client, a film production company or a distributor. Where a film hasn’t already been sold, a film licence allows the film maker to lend the film to someone else in exchange for a licence fee.

There are a number of different issues that need to be considered when thinking about the type of film licence that you may need – but they don’t need to cause you too much hassle, as we are on hand to advise you as to the best route you should take.

One of the most important decisions is whether the licence will be exclusive or non-exclusive.

An exclusive licence means that even though you are lending your film to one person or company only, you are maintaining your ownership of it – you are granting them the right to use your film on an exclusive basis. This type of licence is typically used where you have made a film for a specific purpose, such as a music video or a film for a corporate client.

A non-exclusive licence means that you are lending your film to a person or company, but are reserving the right to lend the film to other third parties too.

Once you have decided the exclusivity of the licence, there are a few more things that you may wish to consider:

  • The length of the licence period
  • The amount of the licence fee and how it is to be paid
  • Licensee’s permissions
  • Warranties
  • Indemnities
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Termination

We will be happy to draft or advise on these to ensure that all aspects are covered, and to ensure that the intellectual property rights have been exploited in accordance with your requirements.

Film Assignments

Selling a film to a production company or getting it put forward for wider distribution is often the goal of many film makers. Where a film has been commissioned, the ownership of intellectual property rights in the film needs to be passed to the client upon completion. Alternatively, although larger productions will typically have provisions in place for the production company’s ownership, an independent film maker may wish to sell the final film to a production company that could then handle getting it to the audiences.

An assignment is a specially worded document that cements the sale of intellectual property to someone else. Once a valid assignment of the intellectual property rights in a film takes place, it means that the film maker will no longer own it.

Things can get a little complicated here though, as there are two types of rights when it comes to copyright in the UK – economic rights and moral rights. Economic rights can be considered as being attached to the work, whereas moral rights can be considered as being attached to the author of the work. In the UK, only economic rights can legally be the subject of an assignment, and accordingly, the wording of any assignment must not purport to assign any moral rights.

We appreciate that some film makers may need some help understanding these issues – we will be happy to explain in further detail the difference between economic rights and moral rights, as well as how a film assignment might work best in your circumstances.

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