Film

Demystifying WGA Television Residuals

Under the Writers Guild of America Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement (the “Basic Agreement”), credited writers for television motion pictures, including episodic programs, are entitled to receive compensation for the reuse of their work, also known as residuals. Television residuals were first negotiated by the Writers Guild of American (the “WGA”) in 1953, under the theory that a rerun of an existing program reduces employment for new products. Consequently, residuals are payable for the reuse of a writer’s material, as opposed to the original exhibition. Though initially limited to programs made-for-television and to five rerun payments, residuals expanded over the years not only to include home video, pay television, cable, new media, and others, but also to payments in perpetuity.

Whether or not a television writer is entitled to receive residuals is ultimately governed by the WGA’s credit determination. Per the Basic Agreement, if the guild accords a “Written by” credit to a writer, such individual is entitled to receive one hundred percent (100%) of available residuals, while a writer that is accorded a “Teleplay by” credit can claim seventy-five percent (75%) of available residuals; if the guild accords only a “Story by” credit to a writer, he or she is entitled to receive twenty-five percent (25%) of available residuals[1]. Furthermore, for an episodic series, if a writer were entitled to Separation of Rights[2] and “Created by” credit on the series, such writer would be entitled to a residual on the creator sequel payment minimum payable for each episode of the series produced beyond the pilot. Continue reading

Examine How the #MeToo and #TimesUp Movements are Impacting Entertainment Contracts

As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and their effects continue to unfurl, Hollywood is utilizing legal mechanisms via entertainment contracts to implement and supplement the changing norms, from “morals provisions” to “inclusion riders.”

What are commonly referred to as “morals provisions” have a long history in the entertainment industry, but in recent years, have been more commonly found in endorsement and advertising deals than in television and film agreements. Studios and production companies that had stopped using such provisions have started putting in place plans to reimplement them, while those that had been using them all along are revising them to conform to the new landscape.  Even distributors who never used morals provisions are starting to include them in their contracts, lest one of their projects ends up with some unexpected negative baggage.  Regardless, all of these industry players are looking for ways to tailor their contractual language to better address the valid business concerns related to fallout from the #MeToo movement.  Although talent attorneys are generally not pleased at the resurgence of these provisions, it appears unlikely at this time that the provisions will go away entirely; indeed, in some cases talent representatives think that there should be reciprocal provisions benefitting talent if there is another Weinstein-like situation with a studio or distributor. Continue reading

The de Havilland v. FX Networks, LLC Appeal: Round 2 Goes to FX

On Monday a California appeals court handed down a decision in the closely watched case of de Havilland v. FX Networks, LLC et al., triggering a collective sigh of relief from studios, networks, and other content producers. The court’s decision reaffirms two widely recognized principles: (1) that the First Amendment’s protection of creative works is not limited by the mere fact that a work generates income, and (2) that an individual cannot censor the way in which she is depicted in a creative work merely because she does not like that depiction.

These principles, as applied to the entertainment industry, have been challenged in recent years with a wave of cases such as de Havilland.  For instance, a case in New York, Porco v. Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLC, was allowed to proceed after an appellate court held that the newsworthiness exception to New York’s statutory right of publicity did not apply to a docudrama that substantially fictionalized the life story of a real person.  The court stated that such a work was “mainly a product of the imagination” and thus “nothing more than [an] attempt[] to trade on the persona of the plaintiff.” Continue reading

Notable TV and Digital Deals from Q3-4 2017

The last few months have seen a number of high-profile deals in episodic programming, spurred in part by the entry of a number of significant new players in the marketplace. Here are a few particularly noteworthy entries:

Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon Morning Show Drama Lands at Apple With Two-Season Order

Apple is anticipated to become a major purchaser of entertainment content, and it made a splash with its first show announcement – a two-season order for a show starring and executive produced by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, set inside the cutthroat world of morning television.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ‘Kingkiller Chronicle’ Series Set At Showtime

Everyone is looking for the next “Game of Thrones and “The Kingkiller Chronicles,” in development at Showtime and based on Patrick Rothfuss’s acclaimed fantasy series, may be it. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is attached to executive produce, and will contribute music to the series – a key development as music is an important component of Rothfuss’s books. Continue reading

Writers Engaged in “Additional Capacities” – Article 14 Basics

WGA writers, particularly as they advance in their careers, often end up engaged in both their capacity as writers as well as in an additional non-writing capacity, such as executive producers.  Article 14 of the WGA Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) is therefore an important provision to understand for both writers and anyone engaging them; it states that if a writer is engaged in such an additional capacity, but also provides writing services, those services are still covered by MBA and that writer is still entitled to at least a certain level of minimum compensation for writing services.  Without Article 14 of the MBA, it would be difficult to determine what portion of a WGA writer’s time is spent writing, versus (for example) producing, and thus difficult to determine the writer’s minimum compensation.  Article 14 was one of sections of the MBA that was updated as part of the May 2, 2017 three-year revision of the MBA, discussed here. Continue reading

Inside Counsel’s Five-Part Series, “Where Former Entertainment GCs Go Next”, Provides Firm Profile of CDAS

Inside Counsel’s Senior Editor & Community Manager, Rich Steeves, published a five-part series titled “Where Former Entertainment GCs Go Next” last week, which was prominently featured on the Inside Counsel website.

The series, which discussed the so called “third act” for successful general counsel, provided a comprehensive profile of CDAS and the services the firm provides to clients, while also discussing the appeal the firm has had for former GCs in their transition to a new environment.

CDAS Partners Aileen Atkins, Frederick Bimbler, Douglas Jacobs, Eleanor Lackman, Marc Simon and Stephen Sheppard were interviewed for the series. You can find a link to each part of the series below.

PART 1: http://www.insidecounsel.com/2015/04/27/third-act-where-former-entertainment-gcs-go-next-p
PART 2: http://www.insidecounsel.com/2015/04/28/third-act-where-former-entertainment-gcs-go-next-p
PART 3: http://www.insidecounsel.com/2015/04/29/third-act-where-former-entertainment-gcs-go-next-p
PART 4: http://www.insidecounsel.com/2015/04/30/third-act-where-former-entertainment-gcs-go-next-p
PART 5: http://www.insidecounsel.com/2015/05/01/third-act-where-former-entertainment-gcs-go-next-p

Stolen Screenplay Ideas: A Look at Recent Cases

It’s a tale almost as old as Hollywood itself. A new movie comes out and garners some attention and commercial success and, before the first profit participation checks have been mailed (and even if the movie never turns a profit), a lawsuit has been filed alleging that some element of the movie was stolen from an earlier work – and often an earlier work that has never seen the light of day commercially. Continue reading

Re-Creation of Scenes from Pornographic Film for Biopic Not a Violation of Copyright Laws

New York Court Tosses Copyright and Trademark Claims at Pleading Stage

In Arrow Productions, Ltd. v. The Weinstein Company LLC, et al., No. 13 Civ. 05448, 2014 WL 4211350 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 25, 2014), Judge Griesa undertook the judicial task of determining whether Defendants’ unauthorized recreation of scenes from Arrow’s copyrighted film constitutes fair use by viewing “all that is necessary” to make such determination – scenes from the pornographic film descriptively titled Deep Throat, and the film that allegedly copied them, Lovelace.  All in a day’s work.

Arrow is the copyright owner of the well-known pornographic film Deep Throat (1972) starring a young Linda Lovelace.  Deep Throat is about a woman’s journey to achieving sexual satisfaction, and is replete with sexual scenes and nudity.  Defendants’ film, Lovelace (2013), is a biographical account of Linda Lovelace.  Lovelace documents how Linda Lovelace’s formative years in the pornography business, including her experience filming Deep Throat, and her emotionally abusive marriage to Chuck Traynor led her to become an outspoken critic of pornography later in life.  Lovelace does not contain any pornographic scenes or nudity. Continue reading

Producing Content in Emerging Markets

What Producers Need to Know About Anti-Bribery Laws and Regulations

By Simon N. Pulman

As the marketplace for entertainment content becomes increasingly global and the middle classes in the BRICS nations (i.e., Brazil, China, Russia, India and South Africa) become both larger and equipped with greater disposable income, content owners of all kinds are looking exploit their intellectual properties in international markets. As part of this process, content producers are seeking to shoot substantial portions of their films and television shows in the target markets themselves, in order to appeal to foreign audiences in a more effective and authentic manner (e.g., Transformers 4, which shot in several locations in China and is on course to make more money there than in the United States), as well as to take advantage of certain foreign tax credits and subsidies.

However, content producers should be aware that there are very real risks nestled among the benefits of creating content in foreign jurisdictions. In addition to the possibility that foreign partners may be accustomed to different cultural standards and courses of dealing when it comes to negotiation and due diligence, or may feel aggrieved and become litigious once they see the finished product (as occurred with Transformers 4 and several of its brand partners), producers must be aware of their potential exposure to liability under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), as well as under the UK Bribery Act and local laws and regulations focused on reducing bribery and other corrupt practices. Continue reading

Negotiating Digital Distribution Agreements

Business and Legal Issues to Watch in the Era of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and VHX

By Simon N. Pulman

Digital and direct distribution options have created new opportunities for producers seeking to leverage multiple platforms to find new revenue streams and audiences for their work. While the traditional “all rights” deal will continue to exist as long as there are major distributors willing to pay a minimum guarantee and give a certain exclusive category of films a theatrical push, many producers are now looking at entering into (and understanding) two or more concurrent distribution deals with different and hopefully complementary partners. The goal for many of these producers is to maintain greater control over distribution and marketing, maximize value for investors and unlock the potential of growing digital platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu to benefit both the individual film and the longer-term career of its producer.

It is now not unusual for the producer of a moderately budgeted film to have separate agreements in place for theatrical, traditional home video (i.e. DVD and Blu-Ray), television and video-on-demand, plus an additional agreement with a foreign sales agent with respect to international rights. Moreover, some filmmakers who are willing to do some of the marketing and distribution legwork may also seek to “carve out” the right to directly distribute their films through streaming sites such as Vimeo and VHX (the subject of a recent Indiewire article here). These direct distribution sites allow producers to retain the lion’s share of receipts from their films, but also push most marketing and promotional responsibilities onto the producer.

Faced with many potential options – and rights issues – what do filmmakers need to know about distribution agreements? At CDAS, we represent many filmmakers and other content producers entering into distribution and sales agreements with major and mini-major studios, sales agents, aggregators and service providers. Here are a few threshold issues to consider based upon the many deals that we see:

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