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

Leave a Reply