Script Insurance Clearance Reports: Why are They Important?

Posted by Krista Johnston on Mar 13, 2010 1:29:00 PM


Film script clearance report

Script Insurance clearance reports provide important information for producers of films, documentaries and TV Series.

Script clearance research involves reading and breaking down a script and identifying all items that represent possible legal conflicts, if used as is. These items include:

  • character names,
  • business names,
  • locations (signage),
  • logos,
  • slogans and quotes,
  • product names,
  • schools,
  • organizations,
  • images and designs,
  • music,
  • defamatory references, and racial slurs,
  • and the use of protected material in the form of copyrights or trademarks.  

Additionally, the report includes information on photographs, artwork, books, music, film clips, dialogue, props, identifiable personalities and much more.

The report will be reviewed by your production lawyer who will determine if particular details may pose legal problems.  The report is also distributed to the director, producers, and any other production personnel who will be creating set dressing, props, signage, wardrobe or other elements from the script.

When should we start on our clearances?

If you intend to release your production to be viewed by an audience, you should have a script clearance report researched at the pre-production stage, prior to shooting the script.  Unless you already have a distribution deal in place, you'll need to find a distributor to release your production.  As the distributor isn't generally part of your creative process, they'll want a guarantee that it doesn't contain any materials which could cause an infringement, defamation of character, or other legal problems that would result in them being sued. 

Clearing the content of a script before beginning to shoot is highly recommended, since some elements can't be changed once the production is finished.  Failing to complete the necessary clearances could result in having to redo elements (expensive editing costs) or if that's not possible, the inability to screen or distribute the production at all.

Once you have a locked script, the first thing you should do is start your clearances.  The main reasons for that are:

  1. You want to know if your main character names are clear and if not, you may need to work on some alternates;
  2. The longer you wait, the greater the cost in having a report prepared (there are various turnaround times and rates for reports depending on how quickly you need it);
  3. Getting permission to use real brand names and products in your production can often take several weeks;
  4. A full script report can assist you in meeting the needs of your producers e&o insurance - otherwise known as film e&o insurance or multimedia e&o -  requirements.

Who are these clearance people?  Can anyone do a script clearance report?

Script research and script clearance workers must be very detail oriented and organized.  There are often many details and facts that need to be checked which means using a wide variety of specialized databases and resources, making phone calls and creative problem solving to obtain information.  Understanding legal issues, copyrights, trademarks and clearance issues are a must and in a specialized field, there are very few people who can accurately advise on this topic.

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Guest post by Krista

Krista Johnston is the owner of The Research House Clearance Services Inc., a Canadian company that provides script clearance reports, title clearance reports, footage and stills consulting and permissions placements and has clients in Canada, the USA, Australia, France, Germany, the U.K. and South Africa.  For more information on clearances check out



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