A plain-English overview of legal issues that affect creatives and creators, as understood by someone who works in the business. Posts aren't legal advice, my employer isn't responsible for what I say, subscribe if you like what you see.
If you're creating valuable content, you may someday want to get paid. And that means you'll need to know something about how payments are structured in entertainment contracts. I know, this could be tedious. But when we get to talking about money, and especially in future posts when I go into net profits clauses, knowing the basics will be really important.
Oversimplifying drastically, there are two basic types of payments:
Payments over time (royalties and advances)
First I'll talk about flat fees. Then I'll cover royalties and advances.
So you've come up with the greatest new idea. Before you do anything with it, you need to know these two points.
1. You can't protect your idea.
An idea itself is totally impossible to protect. There are 4 major types of intellectual property: copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secret. (There are outliers too: Canada protects circuit board designs for some weird reason for example. We'll focus on the big 4.) And in a nutshell:
"What distinguishes the unhappiest person? Smoky eyes and chic up-do. Evening glam."
Someone, somewhere, has come up with the idea of putting together two completely disparate sources: the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard and the tweets of Kim Kardashian. One example of the result is above: it combines a reference to Kierkegaard's "The Unhappiest Man" with one of Kardashian's July 9, 2012 tweets. And I'll let you decide whether @KimKierkegaard's use of them is genius or banal, but it's definitely a perfect example of a parody.
I have to start this post with a truism: if someone wants to steal your content on the Web there's nothing you can do to stop them. That's the unfortunate truth of the online world and it's not really a surprise to anyone. The real questions are: what can you do to make it clear they've stolen from you, and what can you do when you find out they've stolen from you.
MYTH #1: Idea theft never happens, people who think that are paranoid.
Actually, it does. One of the most famous cases on "Hollywood accounting" is Buchwald v. Paramount, in which Art Buchwald sued Paramount and got a judgment saying that Paramount stole the idea for "Coming to America" from him. And studios aren't the only people who can steal ideas...
MYTH #2: Idea theft happens all the time, people who don't think that are crazy.
This is even less true than #1, for three reasons.