A Legal Blog by Aaron | Sanders, PLLC


Copyright Law Can Spice Up Anything: The Surprising Scope of Copyright Protection

The Thick and Thin of Copyright Protection

Copyright lawyers love tell you that copyright law is all about encouraging creativity because that makes it seem that we’re performing some sort of socially useful activity. We love to point to paintings, novels, movies and music. Without the legal monopoly that copyright law confers on “creators,” these wonderful things wouldn’t be created. Or, at least, they wouldn’t be as good.

And—you know what?—sometimes this is even true! There are lots of cases about music and movies and even dancing!

But you know what else is protected by copyright law? A catalogue of dental procedures. Lists of collectable cards. Medical education brochures (e.g., Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Understanding Your Health.) Private placement memoranda.

What’s a private placement memorandum? So glad you asked. Before you can ask folks to give your enterprise money, you need to provide them with certain information so they can make an informed decision. If you’re providing this information because you’re offering to sell equity or debt, and the transaction is “private,” then you’ll be expected to provide a “private placement memorandum” (or “PPM”). PPMs are not “creative,” in the usual sense of the word. They are designed to inform. Much of the information…

Read More»

If the Award Goes to the Movie’s Producer Should the Copyright Go as Well?

As Between the Director and the Producers, Who Owns a Movie’s Copyright?

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out the award for Best Picture, the award goes to the movie’s producers. The director, the actors, the cinematographers, make-up artists, and so forth, all get their own awards, of course. But Best Picture goes to the producers. As it should be. They are the ones who pull the movie together: they arrange for the screenplay (either to be created or to be licensed); they hire everyone; they finance it; they pitch it to financiers, actors, other producers, directors. Sometimes they are also closely involved in the movie’s creative vision. It’s not unusual for directors to also be producers, or for the producers to participate in the direction of and screenwriting for the movie. Other producers (often “executive producers”) view matters at a much higher level: they’re content to organize, finance, hire and consult.

So, from a business perspective, a producer may legitimately be said to “own” a movie. But do the producers automatically own the copyright in the movie? Until very, very recently, I would have thought the answer was clearly and obviously no. The director is the…

A still from the short film *Heads Up*.

Read More»

The Good Lie Lawsuit: Why the Lost Boys’ Copyright Claim Will Fail

Who Owns the Copyright in Your Life Story? Nobody.

There is, in my mind, a rebuttable presumption that earnest Hollywood movies are the equivalent of eating overcooked vegetables: you only watch them because they’re good for you, and most of the vitamins have been leached out. Thus, I’ve never watched The Good Lie, an earnest Hollywood movie about the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” who have a remarkable story no matter how you tell it.

The Good Lie gets my attention because it is the subject of an ambitious and astounding lawsuit filed last week in the Northern District of Georgia, which has a fascinating, if misguided, copyright angle. You can read the lengthy (but compelling) Complaint here. The plaintiffs are dozens of Lost Boys who had been interviewed by the early producers of the movie (whom we’re just going to call the screenwriters. Everyone allegedly knew that the interviews’ purpose was to help write a script, and everyone expected a movie to eventually be produced.

The Lost Boys were savvy enough not to give their life stories away for free, but the screenwriters didn’t have a lot of money. The real money would come later, but only after the script was written,…

The movie is really about the three men on the right, not so much about REESE WITHERSPOON.

Read More»