Keeping Track of Rights

The ownership and rights to any film can be quite complicated and usually requires multiple contractual arrangements. The rights granted in these agreements need to be tracked.

Watch this brief video on “Keeping Track” of your projects.

This begins with something referred to The Chain of Title – the original rights to the screenplay and the rights to any materials (novel, short story, news article, etc.) that the screenplay is based on.

Then there is the ownership of the film itself beginning with the official copyright filings and include the financing documents which define the overall terms of that ownership.

Also, what other third party copyrighted materials were licensed for use in the film? Did you use music, photos, video clips, audio clips or anything that your production attorney indicated that required permission? Proving that you have these permissions is generally a requirement for obtaining insurance and distribution deals. Mostly, these items are summarized in cue sheets – a Music Cue Sheet, a Photo Cue Sheet, etc. These cue sheets are almost always handled by using excel spreadsheets.

PRO TIP: In every situation the language you want to include in your agreements for material you are licensing is that rights are granted, “in perpetuity, in all media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe.” To obtain these deal terms upfront will be more expensive than having limited rights, however, not having these terms may mean your film cannot be shown. Discuss this with your attorney.

Finally, if you have secured all the rights you need to exploit the film, who have you signed agreements with to distribute your film? You may have licensed your film to one company for worldwide rights in all media in perpetuity or you may have separate agreements for different media, territories and lengths of time.

The Project Tracking Template (download here) is a starting point to help you with all of this. The Template is a blank slate and you should use it to suit your individual needs. You can use this to track a single film or multiple films. If using this to track a single film you can also simply copy/ paste any cue sheets into the workbook for safekeeping.

And be sure to store this document on multiple drives and on any LTOs that you create because having the physical element files is critical to preservation but having these rights documents is critical to having people see your work.

Thanks to Producer and Missing Movies Advisor, Maggie Renzi for sharing her tracking worksheet! Please use the Template as you and your legal team see fit. This is a living document and will be updated based on your comments and input so please contact us with your thoughts!