Independent contractors and indie films: Police officers not production employees on low-budget shoot per California Court of Appeals.

Entertainment law case updates

Michael Estrada v. Scars of the Mind Motion Picture Company
Cal Ct App August 31, 2022

Whether production crew members on low-budget indie films are employees rather than independent contractors is an extremely important business and legal affairs issue for film producers. That’s because a production company that allegedly fails to pay workers as employees if required to do so can face wage demands, fines, penalties, and the need to defend themselves in court. It’s exactly what happened to the filmmakers behind “Acts of Desperation,” an indie motion picture filmed in Los Angeles in 2018 by Scars of the Mind Productions.

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Bill & Ted’s Excellent Licensing Agreement: Ninth Circuit holds that damages for undiscovered copyright infringement are not limited to three years.

Film-Television-Case-Law-Update


Entertainment law case updates

Starz Entertainment LLC v. MGM Domestic Television Distribution LLC
USCA Ninth Cir July 14, 2022


In Starz Entertainment, LLC v. MGM Domestic Television Distribution, LLC,11. No. 21-55379 (9th Cir. July 14, 2022). the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of a motion to dismiss copyright infringement claims as barred by the three-year statute of limitations under the Copyright Act.22. 17 U.S.C. § 507(b).

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Why you should consider using product placements to finance and promote your independent film production.

Porsche logo on the back of a car in an action movie scene

Advertisers are increasingly searching for more and better opportunities to place brands and products into films and television productions. Variety this week reports that global advertising group Interpublic has announced a new data analysis product planned for internal use in finding movies and broadcast and streaming series that “will serve as a good fit for in-show product placement.”

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Oregon film and television tax incentives for labor and vendors increase July 1, 2022.

The glorious rain-free days of summer in Oregon will soon be here. Even better this year are new increases to the state’s film and television production tax incentives effective July 1, 2022. Using Oregon’s film and media incentive programs, producers may be able to rebate 20% of Oregon-based goods and services. An additional cash payment of up to 16.2% of payroll wages paid to production personnel working in the state may also be available. Oregon Film has announced that “this will increase to a 25% rebate for both labor and vendors as of July 1, 2022.”

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Indie producer film budget alert: SAG-AFTRA film and television performer minimum scale goes up July 1.

Independent producers know full well how important it is to keep production value high and film budgets low. Productions using SAG-AFTRA talent should be alert to the pending increase in scale rates under theatrical, television, new media, and other SAG-AFTRA agreements. As of July, 1, 2022, rates for union performers are expected to increase by several percent. Exact figures await final decisions by the union on pension and welfare plan contribution amounts.

SAG-AFTRA rates are the minimum amounts that actors and other performers represented by the guild are required to be paid on a project. Rates are set in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”), which is the entertainment guild contract to which a production company that wants to use union talent needs to agree before the talent can work on the film or show.

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Copyright licenses and your indie film’s production budget: What the Top Gun lawsuit can teach about the bottom line.

copyright-infringement-top-gun-maverick

As any line producer knows, the production budget on an independent film can nearly always be higher. Production legal services can sometimes seem more a luxury than a line item—especially when the question of using someone else’s creative work comes up. A chance to discuss this important issue for independent filmmakers has appeared in the form of a new civil action filed against Paramount Pictures alleging copyright infringement based on the studio’s recent release of Top Gun: Maverick, and it’s too good to just let fly by.

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Getting to Greenlight Series: Life rights for film and television


DeepFocus Law’s Getting to Greenlight series presents entertainment attorney explanations of key business and legal affairs aspects of film and television development. This post turns the lens on the life rights acquisition agreement.


As the California Court of Appeals noted in a case involving Hollywood icon Olivia de Havilland, “[b]ooks, films, plays, and television shows often portray real people. Some are famous and some are just ordinary folks.” Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis”, which recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, is one example. There are many others, from eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes (“The Aviator”) to figure skater Tonya Harding (“I, Tonya”).

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Getting to Greenlight Series: What is an option/purchase agreement for a motion picture rights to a book, comic, or other written works?


DeepFocus Law’s Getting to Greenlight series presents entertainment attorney explanations of key business and legal affairs aspects of film and television development. This post turns the lens on the literary option/purchase agreement.


Demand for new source material in Hollywood leads frequently to creative executives approaching authors of written works from literary fiction to existing screenplays to graphic novels. The underlying rights to such works are often the first link in the chain of title of a motion picture or television series. The first step in forging that chain is one of the most important in motion picture and television law–creating a deal for intellectual property rights. A deal for adapting literary material for the screen is most often documented in a literary option/purchase agreement. Here’s an example of a screenplay option/purchase agreement.

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Copyright infringement claim based on use of rap song in Marvel’s Venom dismissed.


Entertainment law case updates

Black And White Entertainment, Inc. v. Marvel Entertainment, LLC
USDC SD NY May 2, 2022


The District Court for the Southern District of New York recently entered an order dismissing claims by Black and White Entertainment, Inc., doing business as Rah Muzic and Rah Records, against Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., Sony Pictures Releasing Corporation, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Inc., Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Marvel Entertainment LLC, and Tencent Pictures (USA) LLC. The claim alleged copyright infringement based on use of the song and recording Super Hyphy a/k/a Super Hyphie in the 2018 motion picture Venom.

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Home renovation contractor’s California defamation claim for portrayal in Windy City Rehab evicted on preliminary ruling.

An interesting case based on a reality television portrayal may have been switched off. The claim alleged that producers of the home renovation reality television series Windy City Rehab on HGTV falsely depicted the plaintiff as the series’ villian. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Sacramento County Superior Court in a preliminary ruling today in Eckhardt vs. The Idea Factory, LLC concluded that defendants Scripps Networks and Big Table Media proved “that the entire complaint arises from an act in furtherance of [their] right of petition or free speech . . . .”

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