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5 Legal Lessons for Independent Filmmakers: Avoid These Common Mistakes


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5 Legal Lessons for Independent Filmmakers

As an independent filmmaker, you want to focus on planning, creation, funding, and other elements that make or break a film production. 

But there’s something that not every filmmaker takes into account when making an audiovisual production: protection of legal rights.  

There are common mistakes that can jeopardize the success of your film production. Therefore, you must avoid them to ensure that everything will turn out as you expect. After all, it would be a shame to lose your hard work due to legal problems. 

So here are five common mistakes independent filmmakers make with their legal rights – and how to avoid them:  


1. Not securing the rights to use copyrighted material  

One of the biggest mistakes independent filmmakers make is using copyrighted material without having the right to do so 

This includes using music, images, or other content without permission from the copyright owner.  

Not only is this illegal, but it can also result in costly legal fees and damages if the copyright owner takes action against you.  

How to avoid it? 

Always obtain permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material in your film. This may involve a license or permission agreement or negotiating fair compensation for the use of the material.  


2. Not having a written agreement with the cast and crew  

Another common mistake is failing to have a written contract with cast and crew members. This may lead to misunderstandings and disputes over issues such as compensation, credit, and ownership of the film.  

How to avoid it? 

Always have a written agreement with cast and crew members. Outline their roles and responsibilities, as well as the terms of their compensation and credit. This will provide legal protection and help ensure everyone is on the same page.  


3. Not protecting your intellectual property  

As an independent filmmaker, your film is likely to be your most valuable intellectual property. Unfortunately, many of these creators fail to protect their intellectual property. Failing to do so results in others stealing or infringing on their rights 

How to avoid it? 

Take steps to protect your intellectual property. This may involve things such as:  

  • Registering your film with the U.S. Copyright Office (or your country’s office). 
  • Applying for a trademark for your film’s title. 
  • Using watermarks and other measures to prevent unauthorized copying or distribution of your film.  


4. Not understanding distribution agreements  

Many indie filmmakers are eager to distribute their films. However, they fail to fully understand the terms of the distribution agreements they sign. This can result in unfair terms and limitations on their rights, such as:  

  • Low compensation 
  • Limited control over distribution 
  • Lack of ownership of the film 

How to avoid it? 

Closely review any distribution agreements you are considering signing. A well-crafted contract will help you be clear about the terms. Besides, it will allow you to identify any necessary changes you might want to negotiate.  


5. Not having insurance  

Finally, many independent filmmakers overlook the importance of having insurance. This can be a mistake, as unexpected events such as accidents, injuries, or damage to equipment can occur during film production. A lack of insurance may make you liable for these costs and face financial hardship.  

How to avoid it? 

Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage for your film production. This may include liability insurance, property insurance, and other kinds of coverage relevant to your specific production.  

The Wrap 

To be successful as an indie filmmaker doesn’t require only your creativity and top-notch equipment. It is also imperative to be careful and avoid mistakes with your legal rights.   

So don’t forget to follow these five steps to cover yourself legally: 

  • Secure the rights to use copyrighted material 
  • Have written agreements with cast and crew 
  • Protect your intellectual property 
  • Understand distribution agreements 
  • Get proper insurance  

Protect your legal rights from the beginning and ensure the success of your film production. Creators Legal has all the contracts you need to make your creative journey safe and have peace of mind.    

Creators Legal is the first and only legal platform for content creators. We designed a fast and easy way to craft simple, yet trustworthy contracts just for creatives like you. 

Get a powerful form builder, a secure e-signature system, and your own personalized dashboard to store and organize all your contracts. Protect yourself in minutes without expensive entertainment lawyers!   

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