So what is the Chain of Title?
Simply, the chain of title consists of signed agreements giving you permission as owner of the film to use property owned by another person or entity in your film. These agreements are part of the chain of title of ownership back to the original copyright owner.
For example, a screenwriter writes a script and owns the copyright to that script. The film company must then have an agreement with the screenwriter that proves that they have secured the rights from the screenwriter in order to make a film based on that screenplay.
Chain of title includes, but may not be limited to:
- screenplay agreement
- music licenses (both sync and master use)
- trademark clearances of products depicted in the film
- talent agreements, including rights to their work, image, likeness, and personality
- crew agreements, including rights to their work, image, likeness, and personality
- location agreements
- art releases
- E&O Insurance (errors and omissions insurance), which provides insurance to producers for any omissions in the chain of title (often secured at time of sale)
Without an adequate chain of title or E&O Insurance, you may be jeopardizing the sale of your film. More than likely, the distributor will require a proper chain of title and E&O Insurance and ask you to sign an agreement in which you represent and warrant that you do in fact have all the proper rights in place and hold them harmless to any claims of copyright infringement.
Thus, it is important to take the time during pre-production and production to secure all the proper agreements. And it's wise to have an entertainment lawyer guide you through the process and create those agreements for you. Get that Chain of Title!