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Entertainment Law
West Virginia University School of Law
Cummings, Andre Douglas Pond

 
ENTERTAINMENT LAW
Fall 2005—Prof. cummings
 
Part I. Film Law
 
CH 1. THE FILM PROCESS: FROM IDEA TO THE BIG SCREEN
 
Introduction
 
·        Green light→ final approval to send a movie into production
·        Treatment→ 2-24 pg synopsis generally prepared by a producer that provides an overview of the film, including plotlines, essential characters, locations/settings, and what it would take to make the movie work. Gives reader sense of how project would develop on screen.
·        Answer print→ final version of film that is used to print copies that will be shown in theaters.
·        Producers generally get 3 min to pitch their ideas, writers get 45.
·        Job of producer→ generating enthusiasm, seeking out locations, create budget, supervise execution of script and translation into film, supervise editing, arrange casting
 
 
Idea Submission: Pitches and Treatments
 
v     An idea isn’t property subject to exclusive ownership BUT its disclosure may be of substantial benefit to the person to who it is told. Disclosure of an idea can constitute consideration for a promise to pay even if the idea is not novel.
v     A voluntary acceptance of the benefit of a transaction is equivalent to a consent to all the obligations arising from it. 
v     If a person obligates himself to pay for the disclosure of an idea he should be compelled to hold to his promise.
v     If person blurts out an idea, he might lose all rights and power over it unless there is a confidential relationship w/ recipient indicating that payment might be expected. To find implied K, Π must show she clearly conditioned offer of idea on obligation to pay for it and that Δ voluntarily accepted the disclosure and found it valuable and used it. Δ must have accepted w/ knowledge of conditions of tender.
·        Independent effort defense→ provides complete defense if can show no access to the idea and created idea on own (no use).
Ø      Ex. Shampoo case (Mann)→ Π wrote treatment about beauty salon antics and gave treatment to friend, who gave it to neighbor, who knew Caplan, a man who worked at Columbia. Treatment made it to Caplan but not to Columbia. Caplan gave it to a story editor at Filmmakers. Caplan never opened envelope and read it. Π thereafter saw movie Shampoo and thought that Columbia stole her idea. She sued. Jury found for Π—concluded that there were similarities btwn the screenplay and the movie. Ct app reversed—Δs protected by indep effort defense—no proof of access or actual use. So similarities btwn the 2 have no legal significance.
v     Generally ideas are free as the air but contracts can form over ideas.
§         Express K→ terms are stated in words
§         Implied K→ existence and terms are manifested by conduct of parties
v     Law of ideas→ affords creator the right to obtain compensation from those who benefit from his idea. Protected by contract theory. No copyright protection for ideas so law of ideas is middle ground protection. Look to the K law of each state to determine when/if ide

ea, offered and received in confidence is later disclosed w/out permission. 2 yr SOL that begins to run at the moment of disclosure.
v     When characters are delineated extensively, they are protected from appropriation when taken as a group and transposed into a sequel by another author. Characters must be so central that they constituted the story being told. If so, characters are copyright protected and can’t be used for sequel unless get a licesne to create a derivative work. 
§         Ex. Rocky case (Stallone)→ Π wrote treatment for Rocky IV sequel. Pitched it to MGM. Heard Stalone talking about the 4th movie on Today Show and decided his idea was stolen. Held—Π infringed not Stalone.   Π created unauth derivative work. Also, no substantial similarity btwn Rocky IV film and Π’s treatment (ct didn’t discuss)
¨      This is imp holding b/c if Π had won, thousands of screenwriters would write hundreds of sequels to successful movies and then claim copyright infringement when something looking like their suggested version is created they will sue.
 
v     K of adhesion = a K (often a form) so imbalanced in favor of one party over the other that there is a strong implication it was not freely bargained