No Copyright Interest for Film Director’s Contributions

The Second Circuit faced a question of first impression:  May a contributor to a creative work whose contributions are inseparable from, and integrated into, the work maintain a copyright interest in his or her contributions alone? We conclude that, at least on the facts of the present case, he or she may not.  (Opinion pdf page 13).

Robert Krakovski owns and operates film-production company 16 Casa Duse, LLC.  Acting as the principal of Casa Duse, Krakovski purchased the rights to Heads Up, a screenplay written by Ben Carlin.  Film director Alex Merkin agreed to direct the film based on the screenplay, also entitled Heads Up.  Except for Merkin, all of the cast and crew members signed an Independent Contractor Agreement with Casa Duse, agreeing that their participation was “work for hire” and that Casa Duse would own the film’s copyright.  Merkin never did sign an independent contractor agreement with Casa Duse, despite receiving numerous email messages from Krakovski requesting Merkin to sign.  Production of the film began in May 2011 without Merkin signing an independent contractor agreement.

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