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The Research House clearance services inc.

We are experts in research and clearances. The Research House has worked on 500+ Feature Film scripts, MOW’s, short film scripts, television commercials and television productions and has clearance clients in Canada, the USA, Australia, France and the U.K.  We specialize in script clearances, title clearance reports, and permissions placements for product, artwork, and props.

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What’s in a name…or a title?
March 7, 2014

Much of the work we do for our clients at The Research House revolves around Title Reports. This report is requested by a production company and provided to their insurance company in order to qualify for Errors and Omissions Insurance (E&O). Broadcasters and distributors require a production to have E&O insurance to protect against lawsuits relating to, among other things, trademark and copyright infringements.

E&O insurance covers a production for errors or omissions that they have made, or that they are perceived to have made, during the course of production and assists in covering legal and resulting judgment costs in the case of a lawsuit. For an insurance company to be confident in providing E&O coverage to a production, they need proof that the production has made best efforts to minimize exposure to such claims. And that’s where the title report comes in to play.

A title report provides comprehensive research on a project’s proposed title to ensure it is available to use. The report looks at film, television, dramatic, video game, and musical works as well as newspaper records and general internet searches for bodies of work with the exact or similar title, in particular, if they were produced within the past 5 years. This also includes searches of existing copyright and trademark registrations. Searches are done by territory, with the most common requests from our clients being for Canada and the United States, although we are seeing more and more projects requiring a worldwide search.

While a title in and of itself is generally not protected by copyright, the body of work is. As well, certain titles may be trademarked in relationship to larger franchise or ancillary product lines. An example of this would be Disney’s 2012 animated feature, “Wreck-It Ralph”, which currently has 31 United States copyright registrations in its name relating to everything form screenplays to music, and 10 United States trademark registrations in its name, covering products ranging from action figures to recipe books.

As the world becomes linked more closely through digital media, and global consumption of cultural products becomes more prolific and tailored to individual tastes, title reports are becoming more and more crucial. A prime example of this is in the world of television series production. In the past, the series title would be searched at the beginning of a project and that would satisfy risk management concerns. Individual episodic titles were not given much attention as they were considered part of the larger body of work and were covered by the original title search.

However, with the extreme popularity of services like on-demand cable products, Apple TV, YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu, episodic titles are now being used more prominently in the marketing and promotion of specific episodes of a series. As such, these titles are open to more scrutiny, and therefore more risk. Certain projects are now finding that they are being asked, either by insurance companies or by internal risk management departments at studios and networks, to obtain Title Reports or Title Explorations (a lighter version of a title report) on episodic titles as well.

As more attention is being paid to titles, and the world’s creative properties are more easily accessible by everyone, we expect to see expanded Title Report and Title Exploration requirements in the years ahead. If you have any questions about these reports for your upcoming project, please contact us. We welcome the opportunity to provide a quote or answer any questions you may have.

Written by Amber Woodward

Look out cable, the internet is coming for you
December 11, 2013

Web series. Interactive series. Webisodes, Digital series. The landscape for television broadcasting has been set on its ear, and we can thank the internet for that. Web-based programming used to be reserved for quirky content, like “Rat Chicken”, which may have been too far outside the box for any broadcaster to be interested in. These productions would sometimes garner small cult followings but were hard pressed to garner large audiences. This is no longer the case.

Shows like “Sanctuary”, that began as a web series and was picked up by SyFy to be produced for television, are breaking down traditional broadcast barriers and redefining the rules of the game. Add to that, online content providers like Netflix, who not only make a variety of traditional content available through online streaming but are now also in the business of creating original content like “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards”, and cable providers have a lot to be concerned about.

Hollywood has come on board in a major way as well. Many stars who have historically been in front of the camera as part of the ingrained studio system are now bypassing the old way of doing things and producing their own full blown digital series, and they are being embraced by fans. At the same time, cable subscriptions appear to be on a steady decline as consumers are embracing online content in a big way. With an ability to watch what they want when they want it, at a much-reduced cost than traditional cable, online viewing has a gaining hold on content market share.

And the technology is readily available to make this happen in a cost effective way. If your idea of “cozy” isn’t gathering the family around the iPad for a Friday night marathon of your favorite series on Netflix, devices like Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast (which is expected to be available in Canada any day now) allow you to easily and affordably stream content right to your TV. And that is only if you’re one of the seven homes left in North America without some kind of web-enabled game console which also allows you to stream online content.

Major studios are obviously aware of the web threat and have been making efforts to engage those consumers who are being drawn to web content by creating web-only extras related to their broadcast shows. One of our own clients, “Rogue”, has produced web-only content for both of its seasons to-date and many other mainstream series are also utilizing the webisode as one of their standard marketing tools.

Audiences and awards voters are rewarding digital programming as well. Netflix has been receiving accolades for its original content with mainstream awards shows, the Emmy’s host an Interactive Media Awards, and the Streamy Awards are dedicated to recognizing the achievements of popular web-based content like “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” and “Husbands”.

It’s a new era for content creation and with more choices than there is time to watch, the viewer is reaping the rewards.

Written By Amber Woodward for The Research House

Short Films Not Short on Talent
November 19, 2013

Short films used to conjure images of skeleton crews of five or six people, all wearing multiple hats on projects that were self-funded through credit cards and family loans. A producer/director/writer was happy if her film was seen by a handful of people. While certainly those labors of love still exist, the short film is no longer just an amateur undertaking, and it hasn’t been for a while.

With Canadian festivals like the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival providing a showcase for shorts as part of their overall programming, prestigious international festivals like the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival & Market and Cannes shine an international light on the best-of-the-best. Advances in technologies have also meant that there is a wide array of online festivals to tap into, such as the National Screen Institute’s ongoing online short film festival. And Hollywood’s grand dame of awards shows, the Oscars, has multiple short film categories including live action, animation, and documentary. Short films have become a legitimate and recognized filmmaking entity in their own right with many opportunities for recognition.

Funding for shorts has also gone far beyond the Bank of Mom and Dad. While still very competitive, there is plenty of opportunity for financing, with creative bodies like Bravo! and various Arts Councils partnering with filmmakers to produce quality projects. This means that more films are being made, more films are being seen, and the bar is being set higher and higher for compelling storytelling in the short film medium.

The Hollywood ‘A List’ is also onboard the short film band wagon, putting out quality and often quirky projects with high production values and great stories and the major studios are utilizing the short film medium now as a marketing tool and as an entity in and of itself. In a world that’s buzzing with marketing noise, non-traditional filmmaking partners such as fashion houses are also getting on board in an effort to think outside the box.

However you slice it, short films have arrived. We are proud to support filmmakers at every stage of their careers and with any type of project. Whether you’re a seasoned professional with a short film project on the go or a first-time filmmaker trying to navigate the complex world of the creative industries, we would love to work with you. We offer substantial discounts on our research services for short film projects. Contact us for a quote for your short film!

Written By Amber Woodward for The Research House

A String of Chaotic Events in A Single Shot
July 25, 2013

A trailer has been released for the feature film that we provided clearances on last year titled “A Single Shot”, starring Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Jeffrey Wright, Jason Isaacs, Ted Levine and Melissa Leo.   The thriller is about a deer hunter who accidentally shoots and kills a woman, then discovering she was carrying a suitcase full of money, grabs the cash and runs, attempting to cover up the murder, only to find out the money belongs to a group of criminals.

“A Single Shot” made its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival.  It will be released Aug. 20 on video-on-demand and Sept. 20, 2013 in theaters.  Check out the exciting trailer for this movie here:

 

Canada’s New Copyright Regime for Photographs
May 15, 2013

The following is being circulated to producers throughout Canada by the Canadian Media Production Association:

1.            The Copyright Modernization Act

Many provisions of the Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11) came into force on November 7, 2012 which result in, among other things, a change in Canadian copyright law as it relates to photographs.  Generally, photographers are now granted the same authorship rights as other creators, and therefore photographs are now treated in the same manner as all other “works” (e.g. novels, poems, musical compositions, paintings, etc.) for the purposes of identifying the author and owner of the work, and for calculating the duration of copyright in the work.  Photographers, as the authors of their own photographs, are now also considered the first owners of copyright in their photographs.  The duration of copyright protection for photographs is set at the life of the author plus 50 years, bringing it in line with all other copyrightable works.

This default ownership in favor of the photographer now applies even in the case of commissioned photographs, unless there is a written agreement to the contrary between the photographer and the commissioning party.   The new default ownership provisions do not apply if the photograph was created by the photographer as a “work made in the course of employment”. That is,  if the photograph was taken by the photographer in the course of his/her employment, even though the photographer remains the author of the photograph, the employer becomes the deemed owner of the photograph.

2.            What does this mean for your contract with photographers/ location scouts/anyone else taking photographs for your production?

This means generally that producers and their production companies are no longer automatically deemed to be the owners and/or authors of photographs that they pay for from unit publicists or others working on a production, unless they are taken by individuals working under employment contracts.

3.            How to protect yourself as a producer?

a.            ensure that contracts with unit publicists and all other contract/freelance/temporary crew (location managers, for example) contain express language regarding the ownership by your production company of any and all copyrightable work created by such individuals, including without limitation, photographs;

b.            although photographs taken by full-time and/or part-time “staff” production personnel are  deemed to be owned by your production company (i.e. as works made in the course of employment), it is always best to err on the side of caution and ensure that all employment contracts with employees  who may, in the course of their employment/position be required or requested to take photographs on a production, contain express wording that your production company is the owner of all photographs and all other copyrightable work prepared and/or created by the employee;

c.             although the moral rights provisions of the Copyright Act have not changed with respect to works in general, because moral rights are tied to authorship (as opposed to ownership), it’s particularly important to ensure that your contracts contain an express waiver (as opposed to a grant or assignment) of moral rights from the photographer in favor of the production company in and to photographs (or other copyrightable works) created by the photographer; and

d.            if you are thinking about using/reproducing older photographs in your production that were previously commissioned by a corporation, be careful about determining whether such photographs are in the public domain or still protected by copyright.  The new copyright regime extends the protection for such photographs beyond 50 years in certain circumstances.

For more information on this topic, we suggest you contact your entertainment lawyer


 

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