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Archive for January, 2012

Should My Entertainment Contracts Be In Writing?

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Whenever a business or individual enters into a contract for goods or services it is a good idea to make sure you get all of the terms of the agreement reduced to writing.  As a Seattle entertainment lawyer, I understand this can sometimes be a tough feat to accomplish as a lot of deals can be made on the fly or over drinks.  But I must strongly advise that after your meeting or phone conversation that you reduce the terms of your agreement to writing to avoid any possible pitfalls later.  The reason I bring this up at this time is because I am currently assisting an executive producer of a film in dealing with another movie producer who is no longer a part of the project.

I will not divulge any information on this dispute other than to say the parties do not agree as to the terms of their original agreement, there was no signed contract and there is also a dispute as to whether the movie producer actually received the actual screenplay at all.  Needless to say a written and signed a agreement would have been useful to avoid a dispute down the road if parties don’t see eye to eye which happens more often than you would think.  Several parties to a project may come in go during the creative process so make sure everybody understands what they are entitled to from the outset.  An oral contract may be enforceable, however it will be harder to prove certain details unless there are witnesses or an email trail.  If there was no contract in place, a party may have an unjust enrichment argument if they provided time and services to a project.  In which case they should be compensated for their time, but should not receive any kind of ownership interest in the project unless the can argue that they are a joint author in the creative work.

Further in relation to distributing a movie screen play, an author or executive producer should keep a log of who the work is discussed with and number and keep track of every screen play sent out and when it was returned.  This is to prove a party had access to the screen play later if necessary to prove copyright infringement.  An infringement claim requires access, an original copyright as well as similarity to your original work of authorship.  As an added layer of protection, the producer should have parties sign non disclosure agreements stating that the parties agree not to distribute the works of art to any non approved parties.

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