Entertainment Law FAQ

What is copyright and how do I protect it?
Copyright is a bundle of transferable rights that exist in an original creation.

These rights are reserved exclusively to the owner and include the right to reproduce (copy), publish, perform, communicate and adapt.

It is important to note that in order to receive the benefit of copyright protection, the works must be ‘substantial’ and unless your work is considered a “subject matter other than work”, it must also be ‘original’.

Ideas and single words or titles are often not substantial or original enough to warrant copyright protection. Rather, it is the material expression of the idea which will be protected by copyright.

In Australia, copyright protection is automatic once it has been recorded in material form (i.e. recorded on tape, written down in a notebook and/or photographed). There is no need for formal registration.
Does copyright last forever?
No.

In Australia, copyright generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.

However, this will differ if the work was not published prior to the author’s death.

Upon expiration of copyright protection, works become what is known as the “public domain”.
Someone is using my copyrighted work but they have only copied 5% of it. Is there anything I can do?
Possibly.

Copyright infringement is subject to a qualitative test, and not a quantitative test.

Therefore, in order to determine whether your copyright has been infringed, you should consider whether a substantial part of your work has been copied.

A part will be substantial if is forms a crucial or essential part of the work.
I’d like to make a film based on a book I read. What are my next steps?
Depending on what the book is about, chances are that you will need to obtain the author (and/or their publisher’s) permission.

An option and deed of assignment is the most common agreement to adopt once the commercial deal points have been agreed.
What is “Chain of Title” and how can I get a legal opinion for it?
In the film and television industries, “Chain of Title” refers to the rights in the underlying work (i.e. your script and any works that your script is based on) that the producer needs in order to develop and produce a film or television series.

Generally government bodies and investors in the film or series will require a legal opinion on the chain of title. In order to give an opinion, you will need to provide your lawyer with all the agreements you have in place that relate to the underlying work for the film (e.g. Option and Deed of Assignment, Writer’s Agreements, Development Agreements, and any other agreements that relate to or transfer a share of copyright in the work on which the film or series is to be based).

Your lawyer will not be able to provide an opinion until it is satisfied that all the necessary agreements are in place and owned by the correct owner.
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