- INTERNS. 'Everyone loves PA interns cuz they work for free, right?!?' Wrong. The Blackswan case was a wake-up call for the industry; your interns are not a way to get free labor. For far too long, interns have been used in abusive manners (even if the producers didn't intent to abuse the interns). The clearest rule to remember regarding the use of an intern in your production is that they are there for THEIR benefit. The job they do should be something that benefits them because they learned something or gained a valuable experience. And a big no-no is using an intern to replace someone you would actually hire. It's ok to use interns in your no-budget production but use common sense and provide an actual opportunity that benefits them. If you want some tips on using interns... here you go.
- 1st AMENDMENT RIGHT vs. PUBLICITY RIGHT. Publicity rights are the rights an individual has to control the use and likeness of their name in a commercial setting. Filmmakers sometimes shoot a documentary or a fictional narrative based on the life of a person or a fascinating event. In those scenarios, a problem can arise when someone's publicity rights (as the person on which the film is based on or the person depicted in the film or the person being interviewed in the film) comes in conflict with a person's rights under the 1st Amendment (freedom of expression). Basically, the general rule is that rights under the 1st Amendment trump publicity rights. Thanks to the 1st Amendment, journalists and writers can write freely about others without their consent. And depending on the context of your film, courts could decide that your film should also have that privilege. But when you are a no-budget filmmaker who hopes to avoid being sued it pays to play it safe and just get a written signed release from people who will be the subjects of your film.
- DEFAMATION. Defamation is communication that harms the reputation of another person so as to lower her status in the eyes of the community or deters people from associating or dealing with her. There are 2 types of defamation; libel (which is embodied in a physical form, for example in print) and slander (which is spoken). The classic victim of defamation is someone who suffers embarrassment and humiliation, as well as economic losses, like a job. There are some defenses and privileges that a filmmaker can depend on to avoid losing a defamation case like telling the truth or relying on communications that occur during judicial, legislative and executive proceedings or communicating about public figures and public officials. As a result, some things you should do to avoid problems are:
- Avoid portraying individuals who are not public figures or public officials.
- Be able to prove that a so-called defamatory statement is the truth.
- Have everyone appearing in the film or who the script is based on sign a release.
- During development, review the script and then during postproduction, review the finished film. Both times you are looking for potential liabilities regarding publicity rights, defamation and privacy rights among other things. Specifically, you're looking for mentions or recordings of and about people and products that you may need to get releases from. Make a list then get signed releases or delete them from the script or finished film.
Read part 1 and part 2.
*Remember this isn't legal advice so use it at your own risk but don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.