Legal Issues in Transmedia Projects
Transmedia is a form of storytelling across multiple media platforms, with each platform making a distinctive contribution to the overall narrative.
For example, a TV show may be accompanied by the release of such things as a graphic novel, a video game or an interactive website, each of which bolster or advance the overall story. However, Transmedia projects also bring with them a number of legal issues that need to be considered.
One of the most important legal issues in Transmedia is determining who owns or controls the rights in the intellectual property. Although existing brands or properties have established audience recognition that you can build on, truly unique properties are likely to hold the least legal issues. If you are using an existing property, you will need to pay attention to who owns or controls such key rights (as we’ve discussed in previous blogs) as the Copyright, Trade Marks, and Image/Publicity Rights.
Copyright issues in Transmedia projects can be potentially disastrous and costly. One copyright claim over an uncleared sample of music, snippet of film, or use of an artwork can create an issue that threatens the whole production. Once you have determined who owns or controls the rights you wish to use, you need to make sure you obtain licenses so as you can use such rights to the full extent contemplated by your Transmedia project. As well as making sure you licence the correct third party rights you want to use in your project, it’s also essential that in terms of all those people actively involved in your project, that you have clear contracts in place specifying beyond doubt their required deliverables, as well as clarifying the key issues such as timeframes, ownership, and remuneration relating to their involvement.
Obtaining a license of third party music for a Transmedia project is often the most complicated type of licensing. In terms of music, there are some licensing bodies such as APRA and Recorded Music NZ that can facilitate speedy clearances for public performance royalties to a point. However, you can still find that there are significant variances between different mediums in terms of what these representative bodies have the ability to license. For example, there can be differences between the ease of licensing for online as opposed to mobile uses and also between the licensing of sound recordings as opposed to the copyright in the songs themselves.
As the possibilities for Transmedia projects expand with advances in technology, even previously well thought out and thorough grants of rights acquired for a project need to be carefully scrutinised to ensure that they allow you to move forward and make use of new possibilities. The current dispute between Warner Bros. and the Tolkien Estate over whether the original licenses granted to Warner Bros. extended to certain types of casino and digital games, highlights that the rights you require may evolve over time.
With Transmedia becoming an increasingly popular model within the entertainment industry, it is extremely important to understand your rights and obligations in terms of using any intellectual property or related rights in this way.