A Legal Blog by Aaron | Sanders, PLLC

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*.

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Is it Fair Use? Lovelace, Deep Throat and Transformative Uses

Is it Fair Use?

We haven’t played Is it Fair Use? since we started the IP Breakdown (though we had several editions on our firm site). If you aren’t familiar, it’s the fast-paced game that’s sweeping the nation where I present you the facts of a recently decided copyright or trademark case, and you guess how the court ruled on the issue of fair use. You’re usually better off just flipping a coin than trying to work through any kind of analysis, because fair use is usually pretty much unpredictable.

This edition of Is it Fair Use features the notorious pornographic feature Deep Throat, which is best known for lending its name to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s crucial inside anonymous source during their Watergate muckraking. It also resulted in what I believe is the only conviction of an actor for criminal obscenity

The Linda Lovelace Puzzle

Confession: I’ve never seen the movie, nor have felt any compelling reason to do so. It’s sometimes called a “classic,” by which I think people mean it’s a terrible movie but had a certain cultural impact. And I’m old enough to remember its cultural impact. Along with a few other pornographic movies from the early 1970’s,…


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