Posts by Jesse Saivar

Jesse Saivar specializes in intellectual property matters specifically related to the entertainment industry, including copyright, trademark, and domain name/website issues, as well as the negotiation and drafting of entertainment industry contracts.



Q&A: Should I Turn My Short Film Into a Video Game Before I Get the Movie Made?

Q: I wrote, directed and produced a sci-fi action short that I think would make a great big budget feature. In the meantime, I have a friend who works for a small video game developer who absolutely loves the concept of my short and thinks it would make for a great game. I think it would be very cool and am thinking about putting together some sort of deal with my friend, but I don’t want to do anything that could jeopardize my ability to someday make a studio film based on my short. Should I just pass or do you think there’s a way I could make this work?

A: For you and your friend’s sake, I hope your short doesn’t involve a chubby, mustachioed Italian plumber with a love of coins who’s intent on saving a princess from mushroom and turtle creatures… in space. If that’s the case, we may have a problem. If not, there’s a chance you can make this work, but you’re right to be concerned about the possibility that your granting of rights to this video game developer could later affect your ability to produce a big screen adaptation of your short film.

First a quick note to those readers who think this may not apply to them because it involves video games: the majority of these issues would arise with respect to a production of any type of derivative work based on something you own, whether it be a video game, a book, a stage play, etc. so don’t be afraid to keep reading! Continue reading the full story . . . »



Q&A: Can I Use the Same Title for My Movie as a Little-Known Studio Film from the 1970s?

Q: I’m in the process of wrapping up a movie. I just discovered that the title we’ve been using, and the title I love, was the title of a little known [major studio] film from back in the 70s. Can I still use the title?

A: Faithful readers, it’s so nice to be with you again. You may have noticed that the last few blogs from our Q&A team may have contained a few stale references. You may have asked yourself “why are these guys trying so hard to be pop culture relevant by bringing up A Prophettwo years after it was released?” Or “what’s up with the German broccoli references?” Or (for our more avid readers) “I’ve memorized every brilliant word written by these brilliant minds and I know I’ve seen this brilliant blog before!” Well, faithful readers, we were tired of watching all you independent documentarians and shoestring filmmakers line your fat pockets with millions based on our legal advice without seeing anything but pathetic adoration in return. We took a cue from our football and basketball brethren and decided a little work stoppage was in order. We’re transactional attorneys, dammit! If we can’t kill a good thing with overzealous unrealistic negotiating, we’re not doing our jobs! So we’ve been holding out… I’m happy to report we’re now banking 13 peanut M&M’s per blog (peanuts removed). (In reality, we were kinda just busy hanging out on the couch.)

In honor of an historic event like this (I love saying “an” before “historic”), I wanted to entitle this blog The Comeback – The Day the Screaming Stopped. But wouldn’t you know it, some jerk already took that title. Which so nicely brings us back to your question. Continue reading the full story . . . »



Q&A: What’s the Difference Between a Movie That’s “Based On” a Book and a Movie That’s “Inspired By” One?

Q: I have a question regarding the rights needed to make a film “based on” a book, and/or “inspired by” a book. First of all, is there a legal difference between these two terms? It seems that one implies a more direct adaptation (“based on”) and the other a looser connection to a book, but is there some legal basis for determining this? Also, does one need to purchase the rights to a book that “inspires” their film? How about a book that it is “based on”?

A: In answer to your first question, while technically there is no legal significance to the specific words “based on” or “inspired by,” there is legal significance to what each term may imply. Continue reading the full story . . . »



Q&A: How Do I Option English-Language Remake Rights for a Foreign Film?

Q: I am optioning a German film to do an English-language remake. Anything special I need to worry about?

A: Well, apparently you need to worry about broccoli. Does your film have anything to do with broccoli? Are you going to be eating broccoli while filming? What’s the broccoli status of your film? Do you even like broccoli? Honestly, I’m not even sure I’m going to be able to answer all the concerns you may need to address if broccoli is involved.

If broccoli is not involved, you’ll still have some issues you’ll need to address. Because copyrights can be divvied up, and you’re dealing with a pre-existing movie with its entire bundle of rights, you have to worry about exactly what rights you’re getting and what rights they’re keeping. Continue reading the full story . . . »



Q&A: How Do I Safely Name My New Production Company?

Q: My friends and I recently formed a production company that we plan to use to produce straight-to-DVD movies. We really like the name we picked and think it’s really distinctive. When we formed the company, we had to do a name search with the California Secretary of State. Luckily no identical name came up so I think we’re free to use the name without having to worry about some other company who’s using the same name, correct?

A: Incorrect. To ease the blow of this blunt, negative answer, let me first congratulate you on trying to stump the lawyers, whether you meant to or not. While your question sounds entertainment-y, it’s actually more a question about intellectual property law, and, more specifically, trademark law. Our moms read this blog (and probably make up 50% of our readership); are you trying to make us look bad in front of our moms?! Continue reading the full story . . . »



Q&A: How Do I Option a Great Comic Book?

Q: I just got back from Comic-Con a few weeks ago and met a writer there who had written a comic book that I think would be perfect for a film. I’m interested in optioning the book but I’m not really sure how to go about it since I’ve never dealt with comics before. Anything special I should be worried about?

A: Faithful Readers! Your Law Law Land Q&A team wishes we knew that you were at Comic-Con! We were there as well, championing the cause of legal geeks everywhere. You may have seen us: the unlikely duo of Captain Caveman and Slave Leia roaming the floors. But, alas, we recognize that with negligible power, comes negligible responsibility…so we are back behind our desks, glasses on, no one the wiser and are here to answer your questions.

Acquiring rights in comic books is much like acquiring rights to other properties. The first and most basic thing you need to know is who holds the rights you want to acquire. In the comic book world, there are a few different business models that are based on the size of the publisher involved; who owns the rights you need may depend on what type of publisher issued the comic book you like. If you’re dealing with one of the big two, namely Marvel or DC, chances are the publisher owns the rights in the comic book. There’s a reason Marvel created its own motion picture production company: it was tired of hiring and paying third parties to make movies based on its own properties. Continue reading the full story . . . »