Author: Michael C. Donaldson
ASIN: B00ITJZ0E1
Publisher: Silman-James Press

Click Here To Purchase Clearance and Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television [CLEARANCE & COPYRIGHT 3/E]

Today, Norm Goldman Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com is excited to have as our guest, entertainment attorney Michael C. Donaldson. Michael has been fighting for independent filmmakers for over thirty years. His book Clearance and Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television (Third Edition) is used in over 50 film schools and has become the standard reference book for the industry.

Good day, Michael, and thanks for participating in our interview.

Norm:

Why have you been drawn to entertainment law? Could you tell us how you became an entertainment attorney? What does an entertainment attorney do?

Michael:

I was drawn to entertainment law through a love for the theatre. My grandmother was a very successful Broadway actress, starring in one of David Belasco’s hits after another during the first two decades of the 20th Century. So it was a natural fit.

In fact, my practice was initially built on my love of theatre and the limited theatre work available here in Los Angeles. Today we represent the prime theatres in town, but our practice has expanded to the point where independent film makes up most of our practice and within that area clearing the rights for documentary and fact-based films has become a real specialty.

Norm:

Please briefly tell our readers something about Clearance and Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television and why do you believe it has become a standard reference book for the industry?

Michael:

It has become so widely used because it is the only book that pulls together all the clearance issues that a filmmaker faces during production. Making sure that you have all the necessary permissions is the bane of most filmmakers’ existence. This book is very user-friendly, so people tend to like it. It covers fair use of copyright material, sets and set dressing, characters and costumes, personal releases, film titles, chain of title, obtaining insurance for all this sort of thing, and more. There simply isn’t another work that pulls all this information together in one volume. I didn’t realize that when I wrote it. I was just writing it for clients. Maybe that is why it took off so fast.

Norm:

Does your writing career ever conflict with your career as an attorney?

Michael:

My writing directly supplements my every day practice, helping my clients and helping me to grow at the same time.

Norm:

Why is copyright important to artists and why do writers and entertainers need an entertainment attorney?

Michael:

Copyright law determines who owns what in the entertainment industry. Therefore, it dictates who controls a project at every stage and who is in the best position to reap the rewards of a project. Because it deals with intangibles, the written contracts are more important in the entertainment industry than in some others and the lawyers are – unfortunately – indispensable.

Norm:

What are the most common mistakes and misconceptions musicians and writers have when it comes to contracts?

Michael:

The single most common error I see in my practice is when two friends start kicking around an idea and they get very excited about the idea and how much fun it is to be creating this thing together and start developing a project without any agreement about what happens to it when they are finished and – more importantly – what mechanism do they use when they are further down the road on the project and their visions for the project diverge. Again and again, friendships devolve into a messy, often angry, dispute with everyone feeling taken advantage of. It is sad. It is common. Artists need to jot these things down – even if it is on a napkin. Co-creating a project is a business partnership. Take care of that piece of the puzzle in order to enjoy the exhilarating ride of creating a project with a friend.

Norm:

How legal and practical is mailing to yourself in a sealed envelope a copy of your original work? Would this hold up in a court of law?

Michael:

For the reasons set out in my book, this is not such a great idea. Register your work with the Writers Guild of America here in Los Angeles or in New York. You can do it online. You don’t have to be a member. It is inexpensive. It is private. It is secure. And it gives you full protection in the event something goes wrong. That is the best way to establish ownership of projects during the early stages.

Norm:

How has the Internet changed your practice of entertainment law? As a follow up, do you believe that the current copyright law is sufficient in dealing with the realities of easy duplication on sites such as YouTube, Facebook, etc.?

Michael:

I was the only attorney in private practice to be asked to join a group of academics in drafting Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Videos. It sets out the best statement of what the law probably is for folks who create works, not for profit, but just to share with others.

This is a wild, new area. The copyright law hasn’t caught up with technology. The business practices haven’t caught up with technology. A lot of political leaders haven’t caught up with the technology. All of this is a work in progress, but it will happen. It is happening. When the printing press was invented, 150 years passed before Queen Anne decreed that authors would be the ones to possess the right to copy the works they created. Fortunately, we are moving much faster than that!

Norm:

Whom do you believe will benefit from your book and why do you think this is an important book at this time?  

Michael:

It sounds a bit presumptuous, but every producer and writer and everybody who has anything to do with acquiring or clearing rights should have this book as should their managers, agents, and lawyers. There simply isn’t any other single volume that covers all the subjects they want to know about.

Norm:

What will you be doing for promotion and how much of it is your doing?

Michael:

I speak on these issues all around the country. I don’t think about it as promotion, but that is exactly what it is.

Norm:

How can our readers find out more about you and your book?

Michael:

We have a website that is cleverly entitled michaelcdonaldson.com. Or they can check out our firm’s website at donaldsoncallif.com.

Norm:

What is next for Michael C. Donaldson and is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

Michael:

I am currently working on a book about why some people get consistently better results than other people. We are not talking about the person who is unusually gifted in some area. Rather, it is about those folks you run into who always seem to get a particularly good deal at whatever they set out to do. There is an amazingly simple explanation for consistently good performance that all of us can use.

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.












Click Here To Purchase Clearance and Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television [CLEARANCE & COPYRIGHT 3/E]