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Legal / Copyright question..

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Kevin DearingLegal / Copyright question..
by on Sep 27, 2008 at 4:59:29 pm

I am doing a video and I need to make 100% sure that all material is free and clear of any copyright or other legal issues. That's not a problem with the footage or the music / sound effects being used, but my question is this.. One of the scenes in an office had a blank wall - we thought it would be good to put a small white board on that wall to make it look a little better. The problem is that the stuff we wrote on the board all references Office Space - the movie.. You know, "Is it good for the company?" and - "- New cover for TPS reports" and the like. Am I risking anything by including that stuff or should I just change it to something more generic (I love the humor of it but...)

Thanks.



--KTFA


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grinner hesterRe: Legal / Copyright question..
by on Sep 29, 2008 at 1:35:52 pm

as long as ya don't use copyrighted coin phrases, you are fine.
A copyright atty will look em up for a small fee.



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Larry S. Evans IIRe: Legal / Copyright question..
by on Sep 29, 2008 at 8:56:54 pm

In reading your question, I gather this was just background content rather than something actually referred to in dialog, or held in close shot. In that case, you're probably okay.

"Is it good for the company?" could be on any whiteboard in any office on the planet, so even though that phrase might be copyrighted in the script of Office Space (as dialog), it'd be really really hard to make a case for intentional infringement.

The TPS report cover reference is a bit more direct, but again, in the absence of an admission of guilt, the anagram "TPS" could apply equally to what your fictional company was preparing reports on. Anagrams cannot be copyrighted.

One has, under copyright law, the "Fair Use" defense, and one of the Fair Uses is parody. I have spoofed many copyrighted productions(although I won't go near a Disney property) for purposes of parody or satire. Generally if one is not being defamatory or claiming endorsement from the copyright holder, such use is excused under Fair Use. Be clear, however, that Fair Use is a defense against a lawsuit claiming infringement (which may or may not be accepted by a court) and not a privelege under the law.

The ultimate question here is whether or not what you have going on in the scene is more interesting than what was written on the board. Unless you have somehow draw specific attention to it, many viewers will not even notice the "inside joke", and those who do will not likely go marching down to the production company for Office Space and turn you into their attorneys.

If you are really that concerned about it, just add a bit of blur to the board to make it less readable, or replace it with something else. Odds are it's not an issue to even think about paying legal fees over, but the easiest and cheapest way to avoid any trouble is just to erase it.

Larry S. Evans II

Executive Producer

Digital I Productions


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Kevin DearingRe: Legal / Copyright question..
by on Sep 29, 2008 at 9:55:47 pm

Thanks Grin, Larry,
Based on what you said, I think I'm fine - the white board is completely in the background and I've already blurred it a bit to match the camera's depth of field - the board is still legible but the blur helps. The lighting and action in the shot shoudl draw the eye away from the board and, the two times this show will appear are both less than 2 seconds each.

Once again, I thank you for your time and experience / knowledge in this area...


--KTFA


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Larry S. Evans IIRe: Legal / Copyright question..
by on Sep 29, 2008 at 10:06:22 pm

No problem.

I actually had an actor write his lines on a whiteboard in shot once. Fortunately the lighting obscured what DOF didn't. -R

Larry S. Evans II

Executive Producer

Digital I Productions


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