What A Job: Making Sure No Brands Appear In A Movie

from the holy-waste-of-resources dept

Rob Hyndman alerts us to a column from an entertainment industry lawyer, explaining his job in "errors and omissions clearance procedures." Basically, the job is watching movies to make sure nothing gets on the screen that doesn't have permission:
Every single character's name in the script must be checked to ensure there isn't someone out there with that exact name who may think they are being portrayed without their permission. All the proposed signage for stores, institutions and other locations must be researched to ensure the names and logos are not subject to copyright or trademark restrictions. If the characters and locations are real, permission must be granted and consents signed. Only certain phone and license plate numbers may be used.

Once the script is written and production begins, all props on set must be checked to ensure no copyright or trademark infringement exists. Fictional cereal being eaten in the fictional restaurant by the fictional family must be cleared before the box can be put on the table.

A rough version of the finished production is then reviewed to ensure nothing was missed and no golden arches appear in the background of the outdoor shot at an intersection in a busy downtown location.
What a stupendous waste of time, money and resources. But it shows what a ridiculous society we've created, where intellectual property law means that you can't have a McDonald's appear anywhere in the background in a movie. I'm sure that's exactly what our founding fathers were concerned about when they put in place the constitutional clause about "promoting the progress."

Filed Under: entertainment law, intellectual property, jobs


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2009 @ 9:25am

    Mike, this isn't a very unusual think. The license plates and phone number thing is there to protect people who might otherwise get hassled by late night phone calls, annoyances, etc. There is no reason for a movie to cause liablity for itself.

    The backgrounds are one of those interesting problems. Most often, it isn't a question of wanting specifically to block something, as much as movies often sell the location and appearance in the backgrounds and foregrounds to companies. The type of car, the soda they drink, etc. All those things are product placements that make money. One of the ways to support product placement is to make sure there are no accidentals. Plus it eliminates any potential legal issues further down the road.

    As was discussed in the "picture of the wall street bull" thing, it's a question of ownership rights as well. Releases are a huge part of making any movie or TV shows now, to avoid any legal claims later.

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