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WHO OWNS THE COPYRIGHT IN A FILM?

Because many creative people participate in the making of an artistic, documentary or commercial film, in order to exploit the film efficiently, it is critical to pinpoint who owns the copyright in the finished work as well as in the raw footage. To address the problem, Congress adopted a mechanism in the Copyright Act which treats any such contribution as a work-made-for-hire. In a perfect world, that should solve the problem. But what if one of the major contributors, (i.e., the director or an actor) fails to sign such an agreement? Would the producer be helpless and subject to the vagaries of competing claims to the film’s copyright? Not according the 2nd Circuit in a recent decision. Continue reading

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