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Author's rights in an audiovisual work

As part of the entertainment industry, musicians and authors of other types of content are interested in knowing what potential future earnings they could have if they collaborate with filmmakers. Let's begin reviewing this scenario. What are audiovisual works (hereinafter - AV work)? To AV works can be attributed films, series, music videos, video streams. Silent film is also considered audiovisual works, despite the absence of an audio track.

Who owns the author's rights to audiovisual works due to creation?

Clarifying this issue is necessary because usually film studios conclude agreements on Copyright Assignment Agreement with authors, under which the author's rights transfer to the film studio or production company. So, the Author's Rights to AV work belong to:

  • Film Director: Considered as an author, especially in case of original creative contribution to the film's creation. Does not receive author's royalties from the film's distribution unless otherwise stated in the author's order agreement.

  • Screenwriter: Has author's rights to the script, especially if it was created based on existing literary works. Does not receive author's royalties from the film's distribution unless otherwise stated in the author's order agreement.

  • Composer: Author of musical compositions created specifically for an audiovisual work. Has the right to its independent use and receiving remuneration for public use. Unless otherwise defined in the author's order agreement.

  • Producers: Have exclusive rights to the film as manufacturers of audiovisual works, as well as personal non-property rights, such as the right to indicate their name upon using the object

Agreements made during the creation of AV work

Any contract you enter into requires careful reading. Hidden pitfalls in the form of unclear or ambiguous formulations in author's order contracts and licensing agreements can deprive you of future unconditional income in the form of author's royalties. It is necessary to pay attention to the possibility of independent use of the work, receipt of royalties from public showing of AV works, reproduction, and other methods of use.

If you're uncertain about the content of a contract, our attorneys are here to assist you in safeguarding your interests. Should you have licensed or composed music for a film, and it becomes a sensation post-release, it's crucial to remember that if you've fully ceded your copyright to the film's producers, you'll not receive a single cent beyond the initial fee awarded to you.

What do you need to know before signing an agreement?

First, consider the specifics of the Сopyright Assignment Agreement. This document often includes conditions under which the copyright to the created material transfers to the film studio or producer. This means that after signing the contract, you might lose control over your work.

Second, it's important to understand the difference between "usage rights" (license) and "full ownership" (assignment). Some contracts may grant you the right to use your creativity within a specific project but not give you full control over it.

Third, pay attention to the royalty payment conditions. Sometimes contracts contain hidden clauses that limit your ability to earn royalties for further use of your work outside the original project's framework.

Intellectual property objects as parts of audiovisual work and types of agreements on the transfer of rights

Object type

Rights type and original rights holderss

Type of agreement on the transfer of rights

Script of an audiovisual work

Copyright object original copyright holder: scriptwriter.

Сopyright Assignment Agreement, Licensing Agreement

Literary work used as the basis for the script

Copyright object original copyright holder: writer - author of the work.

Licensing Agreement

Music work created for an audio-visual work

Copyright object Original copyright holders: composer and lyricist (in case of a song).

Сopyright Assignment Agreement

Music work, composed previously and included in an audio-visual work

Copyright object Copyright holders - composer and lyricist (if the musical work has text).

Licensing Agreement

Sound recording, previously made and included in an audio-visual work

Related rights object copyright holders: sound recording producer and performer.

Licensing Agreement

Directing of an audio-visual work

Related rights object Original copyright holder: film director.

Сopyright Assignment Agreement

Artwork created for an audio-visual work

Copyright object Original copyright holder: artist, designer.

Сopyright Assignment Agreement

Artwork previously made as an independent work and included in an audio-visual work

Copyright object Original copyright holder: artist.

Licensing Agreement

Performance of a role, reading, singing, and other performances during the creation of an audio-visual work

Related rights object Original copyright holder: performing artist.

Сopyright Assignment Agreement

Other works created in the process of working on an audio-visual work

Original copyright holders - cinematographer, set designer, etc.

Сopyright Assignment Agreement

Use MediaRights Revolution platform to keep track of contracts, see the volume of rights you have for each object and the project as a whole, and also to have the ability to use licensed works in more than one production. The system automatically calculates the available rights volume at each use, stores contract texts and scans, and for each object of copyrights or related rights, it keeps financial conditions and calculation formulas for payments.

Music rights provided under a synchronization license agreement (use as a soundtrack for a film)

When you sell synchronization rights, it's important to understand that as a result of synchronization, your music becomes an integral part of the audio-visual work, which in turn is subject to copyright.

Payments for a synchronization license are determined by the terms of the licensing agreement between the copyright holders of the musical work and the producers of the audio-visual work who wish to use this music in their project. Payments can be made according to one of the following rules:

  • Flatfee amount This is an exact sum that authors or owners of rights to musical works receive for the use of their intellectual property asset. The size of the honorarium depends on numerous factors, including the popularity of the music, the duration of its use, and other conditions of the licensing agreement.

  • Payment in installments (flatfee amount): In some cases, especially if the music is used in several places or over a long period of time, it may be provided for splitting the payment amount into several payments. This means that instead of receiving one large honorarium, authors receive several smaller payments distributed over time.

  • Royalty (percentage from earnings) If you are a well-known composer or owner of rights to superpopular music, producers may offer you a contract with conditions for regular payment of percentages from future sales of the audio-visual work. Bonuses or additional payments may also be provided for advertising, album sales, or other related actions that lead to an increase in income from the use of music.

  • Minimal guarantee (Fixed amount + royalty) This model involves paying a fixed fee and royalty from AV work sales after the moment when earnings cover the advance amount. It allows reducing the size of the royalty or attracting celebrities to the project.

In MediaRights Revolution all these financial models can be applied to payment terms for licenses in the deals you storing or signing in the system. As the copyrights objects may have co-authors who share the volume of rights in some proportion, then MR2 automatically calculates payments according to the shares of the rights holders based on the contract terms and prepares reporting for them.

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