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Who Owns the Intellectual Property Rights of a Movie?

Who Owns the Intellectual Property Rights of a Movie?

Let us take a break from intellectual property rights in music and talk about movies a bit: I had to tackle a brief earlier this week that posed the question; Who owns the intellectual property in a movie? The immediate answer to this question will be the producer or that the producers of the movie own the intellectual property rights to the movie but it is not always a straightforward answer, although generally speaking, it is the producer of the movie or the production company that owns that movie that owns the intellectual property rights in the movie but for you to answer you will always have to consider the unique circumstance or the unique facts of each case. 

There are some movies where both the actors and the movie producer co-own the intellectual property rights in the movie, there is even a possibility that an actor in the movie will be the owner of all the intellectual properties in the movie. It all depends on what was agreed upon and drawn up as a contract. 

I am currently working on a movie production contract; the production company wants to feature a Nollywood superstar who is a household name in the industry but due to financial constraints, the producers decided to propose to the actor that he will be a co-owner of the movie since they can not afford to pay him his rate and will be entitled to 10% of the total net profit of the movie.

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Since the story is a good story, the actor accepted the proposal and he is also expected to join hands in the promotion of the movie before and after it has been released. In this instance, the actor is a co-owner of the intellectual property rights in the movie together with the producers of the movie. 

For Nollywood movie producers, the world has evolved more than what you think or used to know. Gone are the days when you just poached an actor and paid him or her to come and do a movie for you and that will be it.

Now actors and crew members outside the payment for the movie they got also want to and can legally be co-owners of the intellectual property rights in the movie, they want want more obtuse the immediate payment they got; this could be the case unless there is a contract duly drafted stating that the actor rights and obligations end on the movie shooting ground and since the actor has duly been paid for the movie shoot, he will and cannot claim the rights in the intellectual property of the movie. Nollywood film-makers need to start drawing up a contract with their casts and crews. The contract will specify the obligations and entitlement of a cast or a crew member. 

As for the actors or a crew member too, if you want to be a co-owner of the intellectual property rights in the movie, it is pertinent that you negotiate that with the movie producer and draw up a contract to that effect. 

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