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World IP Day: From Script to Screen – A Guide to IP

by World Intellectual Property Organisation — 26 April 2022

Intellectual Property Rights help producers attract the funds needed to get a film project off the ground.  It enables producers, directors, screenwriters and actors, as well as the many artists and technicians who work behind the scenes, to earn a living. IP rights also spur technological innovations that push the boundaries of creativity and make the seemingly impossible, possible.

This guide outlines the five key steps that Intellectual Property plays in getting a film project off the ground.

1. Copyright – Protecting the rights of creators

WHY? To claim ownership of the film, secure funds and license distribution rights so it reaches the widest possible audience

HOW? Producers would negotiate multiple agreements to license the IP rights from the input of the various creative contributors

2. It starts with the script

The script itself is always considered an original creation to which IP rights are attached. The original copyright owner will endeavour to reserve publication rights, stage rights, radio rights, rights to characters. This will help avoid unforeseen legal problems in the future.

3. Securing funds

These IP rights supported by clear chain of title documentation are by far the most valuable assets the producer holds. Without a clear chain of title, the distribution / sale of a film can become very difficult, if not impossible.

4. Distribution deals

Distribution agreements generally contain clauses that ensure the distributor has the legal right to make certain changes to the film for the purposes of distribution. Since there are numerous IP-related agreements to consider, filmmakers often purchase errors and omissions (E&O) insurance in the event of any problems relating to the acquisition of rights.

5. Trademark and merchandising

Movie studios use trademarks to create a distinctive identity and to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Registering these film elements as trademarks can open the door to lucrative licensing and merchandising agreements that can help reduce costs of production and film promotion.

READ MORE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF FILM AND IP: When ‘Ben-Hur’ went to the Supreme Court and changed Hollywood forever, The Washington Post, 17 April 2022