Five Tips for Film Distributors and Other Licensees


The United States Copyright Act does not discriminate between two or more joint infringers, even if one infringer is found to be more “blameworthy”. As a result, distributors of copyrighted works must take special care to contract with reliable licensees to ensure they are not held liable for the entirety of a successful plaintiff’s copyright infringement damages, which can include the total value of the copyrighted work.

The perils of joint and several liability are magnified when a co-defendant becomes insolvent or “judgment proof.” Some of the protective measures a distributor can employ include verifying chain of title, securing Errors and Omissions insurance, (E&O) and by adequately vetting the financial strength of its licensor. If such protective measures are not taken, a distributor can find itself exclusively liable for a large copyright infringement damages award and the accompanying attorneys’ fees without any practical recourse against its licensor.

Originally published in IP Magazine in April, 2014.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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