The copyright issue around the tattoo in Hangover II this week had me thinking about rights and ownership around photographs this week.

So you want to use an existing photograph in your movie… Have you secured the rights to it? All the rights? Perhaps you’ve secured the publishing rights already (from the book or magazine publisher), and then found out there were still some reserved rights to be secured from the photographer directly. Next you tracked down and secured more rights still retained by the people depicted in the photograph… what about permissions around the location or the art in the photo? And now… the tattoo?

Securing all the rights to use existing work is never as easy at it first sounds. It’s not necessarily a one-stop shop to permission.

Sure, a clearance research report on the script may flag potential rights issues to you, but there are many items that make it to set that are not specifically described in the script, and so cannot be raised by the research report. Of course you’re going to need proper legal advice when it comes to rights issues and crew members are not lawyers, but crew members are in the position to flag potential rights issues as sets, props and wardrobe, for example, are assembled. The crew (not just one person on set) should have some working knowledge of rights and permissions. Use this week’s story of the tattoo to start or refresh awareness in the crew about potential rights issues. The discussion is bound to be both animated and entertaining. Everyone has a story. You’ll see…

For more on the tattoo & copyright story, here’s a link to the Hollywood Reporter’s coverage of it:

For a list of clearance research companies, see the resource links on my website:

Cheers & a clear shoot to you,