E&O: What Filmmakers Need to Know

Posted by David Hamilton on Jan 9, 2019 4:59:44 PM

 

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As a filmmaker your top priority is likely bringing your next production to life and maintaining creative inspiration, but you also know how important the business side of film production is.

This includes understanding the legal and insurance requirements needed to protect your next film. Insurance is a critical part of the film business, especially E&O (Errors and Omissions). If you understand what E&O is and how it can actually serve your production needs, you’ll set your next film up for even greater success.

Here’s how:

GETTING TO KNOW E&O

Producers Errors and Omissions Insurance covers all of the potential legal liabilities and defense costs against lawsuits alleging unauthorized use of titles, formats, ideas, characters, plots, plagiarism, unfair competition or privacy, and breach of contract. It also protects against alleged libel, slander, defamation of character or invasion of privacy. Errors & Omissions is a requirement for distribution deals with studios, television, cable networks, DVD and Internet sites prior to the release of any film production. In fact, if you haven’t released a film yet, you’ll discover that production financing will probably not flow until your E&O coverage is in force.

 

HOW IT WORKS

Consider the risks: You’ve released a film that is a HUGE success, and someone accuses you of stealing their idea, or script. No surprise, this happens a lot. For example, after AVATAR was released in 2009, a man spoke out and claimed that he had actually pitched this multi award winning movie to AVATAR Producer, James Cameron a few years earlier. An E&O policy would provide a lawyer in this instance and would pay the legal fees and judgement costs if the filmmaker lost.

Planning an online production? YouTube is a hot bed for E&O disputes. A while back, a music video director posted a parody of a well known movie that went viral, garnering over 1 million views, but unfortunately he didn’t have E&O and the video was taken down as he could not afford the legal costs. A big loss for him and one he could have avoided if he had obtained E&O coverage.

 

WHAT E&O COSTS

Premiums for E&O vary based on the content of the production. A straight forward documentary typically cost $2,500 to $4,000 while you can expect to pay $3,500 to $8,000 for a feature film for the industry standard 3-5 year policy term. Every project is unique and requires a custom E&O policy. Standard limits are $1,000,000 per claim/$3,000,000 aggregate with a deductible of $10,000. Ideally, speak to an E&O insurance expert who can advise on the risks related to your particular film. We’d love to help with that.

 

YOUR NEXT STEPS

  1. The first thing an insurance provider will ask you is: Do you have “Title and script Clearance”. This is a way to discover if you’ve done your legal due diligence to make sure you aren’t engaging in copyright infringement and that you have the right to use the story and title. As you set out to obtain E&O, as a filmmaker you must begin clearance work prior to principal photography, continue during filming and complete it at final cut. Note: It can take up to 10 working days for a project to be cleared and coverage to be in place so you’ll want to start the E&O process early to ensure that your cash flow is not impacted.
  2. Once obtained, be sure to check your production/distribution/financing agreements regarding the start date for your coverage, as some financiers require Errors & Omissions coverage to be in place for the first day of production before they will provide the first cheque that allows you to start production.
  3. Your E&O policy will provide defense costs if the producer is sued and will pay the judgment costs if the producer is found liable. Until a lawsuit happens, enjoy peace of mind knowing you’ve got the right coverage in place.

 

About the contributor: David Hamilton is President + CEO of Front Row Insurance, one of the world’s largest entertainment insurance brokers. Front Row offers E&O insurance for filmmakers. E&O Policies start at $1,250 and certificates proving insurance coverage are provided immediately at no cost.

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E&O Film Insurance Protects Against Invasion of Privacy and False Light Accusations

Posted by Casey Budden on Oct 26, 2018 7:10:24 AM

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Ready for Prime Time: RELEASING AND Broadcasting your Finished Film

You’ve made it! After much hard work, your film is finished and being widely screened in theatres. Audiences love it, and very positive reviews have appeared in several notable publications. Pride and excitement are the order of the day as everyone involved enjoys the fruits of their labor. Extreme care was taken in the production, so you’re shocked when you’re informed that a lawsuit has been brought against you for invasion of privacy.

Invasion of privacy is a serious risk to which filmmakers are exposed, and it’s difficult to anticipate all possible sources of legal action.

Imagine this scenario:

Your movie is an adaptation of a well-known book—let’s say, a roman a clef about a Canadian rail disaster. Due to the length of the book and the demands of the feature film format, some artistic license necessarily had to be taken and the book was heavily adapted from the original. This is not unusual, but unfortunately an actual person recognized himself in one of your characters and took serious issue with the way he was depicted.

Claims of this sort are fairly common and fall under the rubric of “false light” accusations. The typical argument is that a specific characterization is unflattering and transparent enough that the average member of the public can easily deduce who it is based upon. In other words, the party in question has been presented “in a false light.”

Let’s also consider a second scenario:

Your film is a documentary about the Canadian boxing world. You’re very careful about securing releases from all parties discussed in your film and all recognizable persons who appear in the background. You’re confident that you’ve taken all necessary precautions, but you still receive notice that one of the fighters discussed has initiated a lawsuit against you for public disclosure of embarrassing facts. While your depiction was accurate, your film included some discussion of the fighter’s life after the boxing world and went into detail about a failed business venture. The party concerned considers this information embarrassing and not relevant to the subject of the documentary.

What can be done?

Generally, claims of invasion of privacy are more successful if the plaintiff can argue that:

  • The subject matter would be highly offensive to a reasonable person
  • The information is not of legitimate concern to the public (i.e., the information is not newsworthy).

It’s obvious that these terms are highly subjective. What constitutes “highly offensive?” Who is this fabled “reasonable person?” And what exactly is of “legitimate concern” to the public? Even when extreme care has been used, a lawsuit is sometimes unavoidable.

A Producers’ Errors & Omissions (E&O) Insurance Policy Is The Best Protection.

The last thing you want is to face a costly lawsuit after your film has already been released. An Errors & Omissions policy protects the entire lifespan of your project against situations such as the above, by helping arrange a legal defense against:

  • Allegations of unauthorized use of titles, formats, ideas, characters, plots, plagiarism
  • Allegations of libel, slander, and defamation of character
  • Allegations of invasion of privacy

Contact us for more information.

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Copyright Reports: Use Them To Minimize The Potential Of A Producers E&O Claim

Posted by David Hamilton on Jul 22, 2015 3:31:00 PM

Office_Contents_InsurancePrior to providing a Producers E&O quote, the film insurance company will recommend that you obtain a copyright report. At Front Row, we recommend that a copyright report be obtained on any book, play etc that the producer is buying rights to, or for any script that was not written as a work for hire by the production company’s own employees.

 The copyright report is important because they make you aware of any conflicting assignments that hinder or destroy the right to use the underlying work.  It is not common for someone to try to defraud you, but many owners of the underlying work do not fully understand previous option agreements or other contracts, or co-owners of the rights may already have assigned the film or TV rights to someone else.

 A recent claim involved a Producer of movie sued for copyright infringement.  Plaintiff alleges that her unpublished novel is the basis for the movie. The Producers Errors and Omissions policy will provide a lawyer and pay the legal fees to defend the producer that purchased an E&O Policy for Producers.

 Once the assignment of the film/TV rights to the underlying work is obtained, the producer should register that assignment with the copyright office.  This registration will prevent someone who obtains conflicting rights from establishing a priority of rights by beating the producer to the registration procedure.

 If you would like a no obligation Producers E&O insurance quote, please click here.

 Front Row is an independent film insurance broker that works on behalf of filmmakers to transfer the risks of filming to insurance companies for the lowest possible cost. Front Row has offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Los Angeles.

Tags: Producers E&O Insurance, copyright report film, copyright search report, production copyright report, E&O copyright report, script copyright report

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