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Top 10 Legal Considerations for Filmmakers

Our firm often presents a seminar entitled “Top 10 Legal Considerations for Filmmakers”. Here’s an overview of the topics we discuss. If you have any questions about any of the legal considerations, please get in touch to discuss.


  1. What’s a “Chain of Title”?

A Chain of Title refers to the documents that establish ownership rights in a property. A related agreement whereby the rights may be transferred from a creator to a producer is an option agreement.

An option agreement may be appropriate if you want to produce a production based on an existing property (such as a book), but don’t have the funding yet to produce the production, including paying for the rights to the creator to produce a production based on the property. The option agreement should provide the producer the exclusive time limited right to buy the rights needed to produce a production based on the existing property. With the option in hand, the producer will seek financing, and may choose to exercise the option if and when she’s financed the production, so long as the option term has not yet ended.

Here’s our blog with more information about option agreements – https://edwardslaw.ca/option-agreements/


  1. What do I need to do know and do about music?

The first question is whether you will include original and/or existing music in your project. Regarding original music, a composer agreement should be considered, and questions to consider include whether the music will be licensed for the project or fully purchased. Also, will the composer be given some or all of the publisher’s share of the performance rights royalties in exchange for paying the composer below her normal rates? Regarding purchasing the right to use existing music, master use rights (the right to use the master recording) and synchronization rights (the right to use the composition) should be understood. To save fees, it may be appropriate to purchase the synchronization rights, and getting a new master recording created.

Here are our music law blogs – https://edwardslaw.ca/legal-services/music-law/


  1. What kind of insurance do I need and what should I do proactively?

In addition to production insurance, Errors and Omissions insurance is important to understand. Here’s our E&O blog – https://edwardslaw.ca/ask-a-lawyer-e-and-o-insurance/


  1. What do I need to consider regarding crew agreements?

Some key aspects of crew agreements include clarifying the job description, fee and payment schedule, termination, effect of termination, and confidentiality. Here’s our blog about assigning intellectual property and waiving moral rights in the crew context – https://edwardslaw.ca/ask-a-lawyer-2/


  1. What do I need to consider regarding actor agreements?

Some key aspects of actor agreements include dates the actor is required, fixed (guaranteed salary) and contingent compensation (the potential for profit), residuals, whether the fee is “pay or play”, credits, approvals, grant of rights, termination, and dispute mechanism.


  1. After all of my pitching, what do I do if someone wants to give me money to make the project?

Some key aspects of investment agreements include defining gross receipts and net profit, credits, other benefits and remedies. Here’s our blog about ways to compensate your investor – https://edwardslaw.ca/ask-a-lawyer-film-profits-and-points.


  1. If and when should the project be incorporated?

People may run their business as a sole proprietorship, partnership (if there are multiple partners) or as a corporation, which creates a new legal entity which is separate from its owner(s). One reason to incorporate is to access Canadian tax credits. Speak to an accountant! Let us know if you want a referral.


  1. How should I organize my relationship with my co-producer?

It may be the appropriate time to enter into a short-form memo of understanding or a full-fledged co-production agreement with your producing partner. Regardless, the focus is on the rights and responsibilities of each partner. Here’s our co-production agreement tips blog – https://edwardslaw.ca/ask-lawyer-ten-co-pro-agreement-considerations/


  1. What should I know about distribution?

You produced a film. Now what? One way to get it exhibited across the country and world is through the help of a company that focuses on making the types of sales which will eventually lead to viewers paying to watch the film. Some common red flags include inconsistencies between what you are told and what’s in the agreement, uncapped expenses, and insufficient clarity in defining the distributor’s or agents obligations, audit rights, balanced rights and termination provisions. Here’s our blog about sales agency and distribution agreements – https://edwardslaw.ca/sales-agency-agreements/


  1. Do I need permission for showing X or saying Y?

It’s important to understand when you need to seek permission for including certain dialogue or showing certain images which may require permission. It’s also key to understand the risks of relying upon the “fair dealing” copyright infringement exception.



Edwards PC, Creative Law is a boutique law firm provides legal services to Music, Film, Animation, TV, Digital Media, Game, Software and Publishing industry clients. For more information and blogs, please visit www.edwardslaw.ca

© 2018 Edwards PC

* This blog is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Please contact Edwards PC, Creative Law or another lawyer, if you wish to apply these concepts to your specific circumstances.

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