The Law Practice of Christopher Schiller
Contact: -- cell/L.A. 213.804.5905 -- phone/NY 518.489.1691


Primer on Copyright for Independent Filmmakers

Given Tuesday, November 6th, 2007 6:30pm-9pm, Bulmer Auditorium, Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC)

Copyright a scary, amorphous word for those in the independent film industry. What exactly is it and how will it affect my life in making films? What this presentation attempted to do was clarify common misconceptions and point out where and when and in what fashion copyright concerns enter the viewfinder of the independent filmmaker. It was not an attempt to make the audience into copyright experts. It does not arm you with legal advice. What was hoped was to lay the groundwork for recognizing when copyright issues arise and when to take their impact on a project seriously. Knowing when to bring in the lawyers and when NOT to forge ahead will make the film making experience considerably less stressful, more enjoyable and rewarding.

The 45 minute seminar, held during the second half of the Upstate Independents monthly meeting, attempted to properly define such terms as: copyright rights and length of terms; "fair use"; "public domain"; licensing of copyright, both exclusive and non-exclusive; authorship and ownership dichotomies and a host of other complex and stupefying elements in this area of intellectual property. The discussion tried to show how copyright affects all creative endeavors involved in film, from script to production, artwork to music, distribution theatrically and otherwise. The talk gave a brief background of the history of copyright and its sources in the law as well as its global implications. It was as expansive as possible, sacrificing depth of coverage to allow a broad understanding of this all invasive entity.

The audience is intended to be everyone who works in the creative media of film. Each person, be they directors, actors or grips, should serve as an eagle eye for copyright issues so that productions won't be disrupted or stopped completely by some overlooked copyright snag. I attempted to make the discussion interesting and informative by interacting with the audience to see what they knew and more importantly what they "think" they knew. Hopefully, with lively examples and discussion topics it was an enjoyable presentation.

Christopher Schiller