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

E&O Film Insurance & False Light Accusations

False light accusations

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.



E&O Insurance 101 & How to Protect Your Film Project

E&O: What You Need to Know

E&O: Cost

Are you paying for the coverage you need?

Steps to Obtain

Producer Errors and Omissions

E&O: Reviewing Scripts

Distributor Errors and Omissions

Documentary E&O Insurance

Copyright Reports

How much of your film is copyright-able?

Copyright Infringements

Title Reports

Script Clearance Reports

Clearance Procedures

Claims Made vs. Occurrence

Fair Use

False Light Accusations

The value of a lawyer

To get or not get permission: The Social Network

A production lawyer's guide to obtaining E&O insurance and preventing litigation

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Producers E&O Insurance: Avatar Producer Receives Credit Where Credit Is Earned Thanks In Part To Producers E&O Insurance

Posted by David Hamilton on May 26, 2015 11:53:00 AM

James Cameron's Avatar and E&O Insurance


TV and Film Producers E&O protects producers from unfounded claims ALLEGING misappropriation of film story ideas.

AVATAR is a movie that was released in 2009. Most people think James Cameron came up with it, including James Cameron. Until one day a man spoke out and claimed that he pitched this multi award winning movie to Cameron. Sounds like a case where Producer’s Errors & Omissions insurance might come into play.

Apparently the two had a meeting in the early nineties, and it was at this meeting that Cameron, also known as the director of TERMINATOR decided to start getting movie ideas from someone he barely knew. Not likely! As the Judge put it: Cameron’s ideas before 1991 included “transporting consciousness to another form, evil mercenaries attempting to exploit resources in a jungle-ike setting, a jungle containing bioluminescent plants and unusual animals, a protagonist fighting alongside natives against a superior fighting force and a sentient planet.”

Since the plaintiffs claims appear to be somewhat frivolous, let’s take a look at producer’s errors & omissions insurance and see how it would help in this situation. Producers Errors and Omissions Insurance, covers legal liability and defense for the production company against lawsuits alleging unauthorized use of titles, formats, ideas, characters, plots, plagiarism, unfair competition or privacy, breach of contract. It also protects against alleged libel, slander, defamation of character or invasion of privacy. This coverage will usually be required by a distributor, broadcaster or financier prior to the release of any theatrical or television production.

Production financing will usually not flow until Producers E&O coverage is in force. When quoting Producer’s Errors and Omissions insurance on a film project, we always ask if the producers have “Title Clearance” and if they have done their legal due diligence to make sure they aren’t engaging in copyright infringement. In the case of AVATAR, Cameron would have had to represent on the Producers E&O application that to the best of his knowledge he was not willfully copying someone else’s work. In the event of a law suit the insurance carrier will cover defense costs associated with the suit.

In addition, the Producers E&O will even pay for rulings against the E&O policy holder. If, however, the client has misrepresented a fact or committed a crime, the Producer’s Errors and Omissions policy becomes void. Film and TV Producers Errors and Omissions insurance is a worthwhile investment if you're a film producer.

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