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How is the copyright in afilm determined?

The process of creating a film is a complex and collaborative effort involving various creative professionals such as producers, scriptwriters, directors, photographers, actors, stunt designers, film artists, lighting engineers, set designers, etc. Making a film requires significant investment and effort from all involved parties. While the distribution and screening of a film can generate substantial profits, there are also significant commercial risks involved. Treating a film as a joint authorship work can lead to disputes over the distribution of copyright, which can harm investors.

Given how copyright is established, it is appropriate to acknowledge that a film is jointly created by the scriptwriter, director, photographer, lyricist, composer, and other professionals involved in the production process. Since the producer invests significant resources in the project, it is proper to assign the copyright of the film to the producer. In civil law countries such as Austria, France, Germany, and Italy, co-authors are presumed to have transferred or licensed their property rights to the producer. In common law countries like Australia, Canada, India, the UK, and the US, the copyright is presumed to belong to the producer unless there is an agreement to the contrary with the co-authors. The transfer of rights and the rights that remain with the co-authors can be determined by consulting the national laws of each jurisdiction.

National copyright laws allow scripts, lyrics, and musical works to be used separately, which means that obtaining permission from the scriptwriter or music composer is sufficient if someone wants to use the script or music of a film. The scriptwriter, director, photographer, lyricist, and composer have the right to attribution and remuneration, which means that they should be credited on the film's credit list. In some countries, co-authors may still reserve the right to be paid if a film is used as a whole.

The Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances addresses the related rights of performers in films and other audiovisual works. It allows for various national systems governing the transfer of performers' rights to film producers, and performers may also have a continuing right to remuneration.


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