Why do fictional character names need to be researched?
In a scripted context, it is an important step for there to be a script report that is ordered.
This is a research document done by a separate research company and they will take the proper names used in the script (full character names with first and last names), proper names of fictitious businesses or organizations or schools or whatever is in the script that is fictitious and they will run a search.
The script report will show the results of that search and they will come up with all the individuals in that geographic region where the film takes place, the number of individuals, any sort of close sounding business names or other proper names and then it is up to the producer to work with a clearance lawyer to determine whether or not the matches are too close or too similar. If they are, then that might result in having to change the name. It might result in having to submit a new search for the research company to undertake.
Basis on which I would advise clients to change character names:
- if the name is so original that only a few real-life individuals share that name
- if the character is depicted negatively or doing negative things which could impact the life of an actual individual (E.g., this person might be sitting at home and see their name depicted on screen and decide that they don’t like the way they were portrayed, it might be too close to their real life, they might decide that their privacy has been invaded or their reputation has been damaged, etc.)
So, in order to mitigate against that, we look at the research report to determine whether or not the names need to be changed.
Nathaniel Lyman is a lawyer at Chandler Fogden Aldous Law Corporation in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he provides legal services exclusively in the areas of film and television. His clients include production companies, individual producers, animation studios, writers, directors, performers, and others in the creative fields. He was admitted to the British Columbia bar in 2013 after graduating from the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia.
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