Chain of Title
by Kamal Moo, Esq.
What is a chain of title and why should it matter to you? In the motion picture business, a chain of title is the documentation that establishes proprietary rights in a film. Simply put, a clean chain of title can mean the difference between your movie getting made and having it fall into unproduced oblivion.
Imagine a screenwriter, we'll call him Joe Scribe, has just finished his newest script entitled "The Adventure" and a production company called A+ Films wants to option it. An "option" is where a company pays a writer a sum of money (say, $5,000) for the right to produce a script within a set amount of time (usually one year). If they make the movie, the writer will be paid the full purchase price for the screenplay (say, $100,000). I'd like to stress that, with an option, the film company is not actually buying the script, but rather paying for the right to try and produce it within a certain time frame. So, in our scenario, A+ Films pays Joe Scribe $5,000 for the option and during the option period Joe revises the script numerous times with A+'s development executives. But, unfortunately, A+ Films is unable to raise enough money to produce the film before the option expires, so the unproduced script gets thrown back into Joe's file drawer.
However, this is an extreme example, because before a studio buys a script they'll usually hire a company to investigate the ownership history of the screenplay (a.k.a. "chain of title") and see if there are any potential issues. This includes checking with the U.S. Copyright Office to see if any other companies have filed paperwork claiming an interest in the screenplay's copyright. Most of the time potential ownership problems will be discovered, and sometimes they won't.
Please contact our firm if you need have any legal needs regarding your screenplay.
Note: Kamal Moo is a California licensed attorney. The information contained in this article is not legal advice. Reading this article does not create an attorney-client privilege. You should consult with an attorney if you need legal advice.
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