Who Owns This Movie? Understanding Copyright Chain of Title in Entertainment Transactions

February 28, 2020

Who owns the copyright in this movie? That song? A book upon which a movie is based? In today’s entertainment marketplace, content is king, and the answers to these questions may have million-dollar implications. On February 26, two lawyers from O’Melveny & Myers’ Century City office gave students an introduction on how to trace copyright ownership across transactions, or what those in the entertainment industry refer to as the “chain of title.”

As part of the Ziffren Institute for Media, Entertainment, Technology and Sports Law’s Supplemental Practical Legal Education (SPLE) program, counsel Evie Whiting and associate Christopher Anderson ’17 gave students the nuts-and-bolts practical knowledge on how to perform chain-of-title due diligence, including how to confirm the original ownership of an underlying work, and how to track subsequent transfers of ownership to ensure every “link” in the copyright chain of title is connected. It is this type of thorough research on which many mergers and acquisitions in the entertainment business rely.

Beyond this substantive primer, Whiting and Anderson offered students practical advice on how to communicate with their supervisors, avoid common errors, and supplement their knowledge on the job. Following the presentation, Whiting and Anderson kindly reserved time to field questions from the eager audience.

The Ziffren Institute’s SPLE event series focuses on providing students with a look at how their course work applies to real-world scenarios so they are ready to hit the ground running in their new legal careers. The events are offered twice per semester and often feature UCLA Law alums.

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