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Ask Variety: Who controls property in deals?

Question, from a Variety reader: “Could you explain who (in Producer pacts with Studios) controls property generated under the deal?”

Answer: In Producer-Studio deals, the Studio controls the property.

I emphasize the word “Studio,” because in Producer-Distributor deals, the Producer may control the property rather than the Distributor.

I emphasize the word “property,” because that word is always defined in the agreement. It could refer to the actual movie, produced as a result of the deal. Or, it could refer to the underlying book, play or script, on which the movie is based. The definition would be important to the answer, because going into a deal, the Producer may “control” the underlying book, play or script. Once in the deal, it would be common for the Studio to control the script (or revised script), and the resulting movie.

The answer to the question will depend on the specific terms of the agreement of the Producer’s “pact” with the Studio. Those terms are the result of negotiations. In other words, the answer is not found in the Copyright Act or in any other statute or general principal of law.

Lionel S. Sobel, Visiting Professor, University of San Diego School of Law and editor of the Entertainment Law Reporter

“Could you explain who (in Producer pacts with Studios) controls property generated under the deal?”