What is Rights Clearance?

Clearing rights means verifying that nothing in your book, film, artwork, advertisement, music, or other creative production is going to get you sued or halt distribution of your work. Other names for the rights clearance process include licensing, getting permission, and media clearance. Find a more complete definition of rights clearance here. Learn five reasons why every creative producer should conduct rights clearance here.

To conduct rights clearance, you might enlist the aid of a rights clearance house and/or a rights clearance attorney. While there might be some overlap, their functions are mostly distinct. Lawyers provide the legal analysis component of rights clearance. Rights clearance companies specialize in the hands-on aspect of clearing rights (e.g., tracking down and contacting rights owners to secure permissions). It is often more cost-effective for producers to retain a rights clearance house rather than an attorney for the hands-on aspects of clearing rights.

Services a Rights Clearance House Might Provide Include the Following:

  • Review your television or film script for mentions of real people, locations, products, companies, organizations, or protected works; flag those mentions for legal review; and sometimes suggest fictional names to replace the real names (script clearance companies provide this service.)
  • Research and suggest specific materials appropriate for your production (e.g., image researchers or picture researchers locate suitable photographs and visual images for your production)
  • Identify and locate rights owners of the music, quotes, images, film clips, etc. you want to use in your production
  • Contact the rights owner and request permission for you to use music, quotes, images, film clips, etc.in your production and negotiate the license fees for those permissions
  • Research and prepare a report on the copyright history of a particular work. A lawyer can then use the copyright report to determine whether or not the work is still copyright-protected.
  • Research the proposed title of your production and prepare a title report listing any other uses of that title. A lawyer can then use the title report to determine whether your proposed title is available for use on your production.

Questions a Rights Clearance Attorney Might Answer Include the Following:

  • Whether you can rely on fair use when using quotes in your book or film
  • Whether you must obtain permission before incorporating certain footage, images, film clips, real names, music and events into your documentary or parody film
  • Whether your film or television production can include footage of individuals who have not signed personal releases
  • Whether a particular work is in the public domain or is still protected by copyright
  • Whether a television commercial complies with false advertising laws (i.e., Federal Trade Commission Act, FTC Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising)
  • Whether a production includes statements or other materials that are libelous
  • Whether a specific title is available for use for your film, television show, book, etc.

A rights clearance attorney will often be asked to provide opinion letters on all the above which producers might then use to acquire distribution and errors and omissions insurance