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Basic guide to IP licensing and film distribution

On Behalf of | Aug 17, 2023 | Franchise Law |

When a person or an organization creates a film, they are crafting a unique piece of intellectual property. Getting a license for this asset allows them to enter film distribution agreements. This is an agreement that grants the rights to use and distribute their creation in exchange for compensation.

Producers can help you with the tricky IP licensing and distribution process if you are considering distributing a film you created. But it would be wise to know the different rights you must be aware of to make the most out of your creation.

Primary and secondary rights

There are two main types of rights in film distribution:

  • Primary rights: Pertains to cinema releases
  • Secondary rights: Covers subsequent platforms like DVD/TVOD, pay-TV/SVOD and free television

The compensation you may get for releasing your film will depend on these rights and the type of distribution you are entering into. Understanding these distinctions can help you negotiate effectively with distributors.

Key considerations

Film distribution is a complex narrative, especially if we consider IP rights and licensing. World Intellectual Property Rights (WIPO) can be a good source for advanced reading. For now, keeping these essential points in mind can help you ask the right questions during negotiation.

  • Rights allocation: Distributors often seek comprehensive rights. However, as a new player, you can strategically retain rights that may hold future value, such as nontheatric or airline screening rights.
  • Revenue sharing: Negotiate revenue-sharing models where you receive a portion of the income generated from sales and exploitation. This aligns both your interests and the distributor’s in maximizing the film’s success.
  • Expenses and marketing: Ensure distributors commit to sufficient marketing efforts and cap expenses to avoid excessive costs that could impact your potential revenue.
  • Clearing rights: Prove that you have obtained all necessary consents and licenses for your film’s IP. This safeguards against potential legal disputes down the road.
  • Duration of agreement: Carefully decide the duration of the IP license. Consider the evolving landscape of film distribution and the potential for renegotiation.

Remember, IP licensing in film distribution agreements ensures you are well-equipped when forging distributor partnerships. It is not just about getting paid rightfully. It is also about an avenue for your film to reach eager audiences far and wide.

IP talks can be overwhelming, but if you believe you are not receiving the right compensation for your creative work, Zarco Einhorn & Salkowski, P.A., offers free consultations — schedule one now.