Have you ever wanted to make your own film? Once you have an idea of what you want to make, you'd be tempted to start filming. However, filmmaking requires a lot of preparation, including making sure all the legal issues are covered. For film distribution or broadcast, you must comply with statutory obligations, copyright laws and obtain clearances whenever needed. Failing to do all this may result in costly legal actions and even prevent your film from being broadcast or distributed. Understanding the legalities of film production, here's a basic explanation of what copyright is. Copyright laws differ between countries. However, there are several international treaties that harmonize copyright to a certain extent. In general, a copyright is an exclusive right that's given to an author of a work of literature or artistic work to publish and copy such work. The work must be original, personal and fixed in a tangible form (e.g. books, films, photographs, musical works or works of visual art). As the author of the work, you alone have the right to decide what happens with your work and how others use, copy or display your work. As an author you also have personality rights (also moral rights) to object to your work being altered or distorted, or to it being made public under another name. Note that concepts, ideas, techniques or facts in a particular work are not protected by copyright. Copyright protection is automatic from the moment a work is created. However it is sometimes difficult to prove who's the copyright holder or who was first to create a work. Although concepts and ideas are not protected by copyright, it is useful to get an official date stamp on your work to show that your creation was in existence on a certain date. In the US, registration of copyright is required before you can sue someone for infringing your copyright. While copyright protects you as the maker of the film, it also protects the creators of elements you use in the film. Therefore you must obtain permission from everybody whose work you include in your film and you may have to pay to use it. In my next posts, more about the legal side of film production. Stay tuned!