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Old April 7th, 2006, 10:35 PM   #1
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Products in short films

I am working on a short film in which there are scenes of city streets, buildings, etc. In some of the shots, you can see things like hood ornaments, empty containers, things like that. Some aren't identifiable, some are. If I was to use a shot that had a car emblem in the picture, could I? Do I need permission? Should a film be void of any identifiable product, ledgible name or not?
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Old April 8th, 2006, 01:23 AM   #2
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It can't hurt

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mason Dixon
I am working on a short film in which there are scenes of city streets, buildings, etc. In some of the shots, you can see things like hood ornaments, empty containers, things like that. Some aren't identifiable, some are. If I was to use a shot that had a car emblem in the picture, could I? Do I need permission? Should a film be void of any identifiable product, ledgible name or not?

IF your production time line can afford it, try asking the various makers that you have already shot footage to pay for the on screen time. Mention that you have a choice os using a Ford (for example) or a Chevy and your first choice is Ford. If they decline to pay you, then get back with them a few weeks later and ask for permission. In any case, my guess is that the logo does not have to be paid for or given permission to use. But that may just be my ignorance in this area (ie... I have no experience on product placement in films).

It can't hurt though.

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Old April 8th, 2006, 04:15 AM   #3
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In theory, any copyrighted trademark logo, or design has to have permission before you can use it, but it's unlikely you'll have a problem if it's just there in the scene. Should you have decided to feature a prominent close up of the Volkswagon logo, you mght need permission, but if there just happens to be a volkswagon in the scene and the logo is visible I dont think you'd need to worry. The Phrase in English is that "The Law does not concern itself with trifles..." This is also why films get errors and ommisions insurance, becuase rather than try and get permission from EVERY one that might have some enuous grounds for litigation, just get the insurance that will cover the unlikely event that someone sues if you have been just a little too careless.

On the other hand, as the old saying goes, you can't show someone getting beaten to death with a bottle of Coke...
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Old April 9th, 2006, 11:37 AM   #4
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I can't help with the legal dilemma, but I'll add that product placement is not permissable for anything broadcast in the UK. Adverts in the background, logo's or brand names clearly visible are all actionable against by the regulator. A lot of american imports have blurry parts when these have been censored, shopping bags, billboards, T shirts. Often product placement results in popular series being aired with episodes missing.

Just something to consider if you arn't making money from a logo apearing, your work may need to be vandalised for whatever reason in order to remove it. Would this tampering be significant enough to make it not worth screening? There is probably a rule of thumb in their somewhere.

More important you have permission, in writing from the people owning the buildings, and a licence to film in public if you need one.
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Old April 9th, 2006, 01:06 PM   #5
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I have been a strong advocate on these boards that people worry way too much about this stuff, but you definitely want to play it safe. The issue isn't so much that the trademark holder will give you grief (I'm not convinced that ever happens with incidental shots of logos, to tell you the truth), so much as how it will affect your eligibility for festivals and so on. They can be pretty strict. I worked as a sound technician on a film intended for the Howard Stern contest last week, and at the last minute the rules were apparently changed so that even incidental shots of logos were banned. The poor editor had to really bust his butt erasing them in time to make the deadline. I asked him if this was common and he said no. In fact he said if it was his film he wouldn't bother, even with the rules change, but the producer doesn't want to take any chances. Clearly, it just makes sense to avoid shooting logos if at all possible.
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Old April 11th, 2006, 12:29 PM   #6
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I recently shot a short film in a laundromat. There are lots of commercial elements and logos in the laundromat, such as all the products in the vending machines, the logo on the pay phone, magazines lying around, etc.

As elements of the story, the protagonist offers a girl some fabric softener as a pick-up line, and the box and logo are prominently displayed. He also eats three different kinds of snack chips from the bending machine, and they are also prominently seen. In this case, I am contacting the legal departments at the fabric softener and chip companies to request clearance, but not for every other minor thing in the laundromat.

I'll let you know how it goes.
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Old April 11th, 2006, 12:38 PM   #7
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Yeah, that goes way beyond incidental. For scenes like that you ought to create fictional brands.
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Old April 13th, 2006, 07:41 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marco Leavitt
I worked as a sound technician on a film intended for the Howard Stern contest last week, and at the last minute the rules were apparently changed so that even incidental shots of logos were banned. The poor editor had to really bust his butt erasing them in time to make the deadline. I asked him if this was common and he said no. In fact he said if it was his film he wouldn't bother, even with the rules change, but the producer doesn't want to take any chances. Clearly, it just makes sense to avoid shooting logos if at all possible.
Marco, I think this has more to do with Howard Sterns advertising, I think it's like when MTV blurs out slogans and logos in music videos that were obviously deliberately placed their by the videos' producers - i.e. if you want to get your product/brand publicised on MTV, you PAY for it. If Stern is sponsored by Pepsi, (I don't know if he is, just supposing) they don't want his film fest featuring a load of Coke cans.
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Old April 21st, 2006, 10:56 AM   #9
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I was watching a Food Network "behind the scenes" program awhile back where the issue of "what brand of muffin mix were you using?" came up...

Ironically, most of the shows never use a recognizable brand. They alter the appearance of it - I think to avoid the hassle of securing permission, payment and other legal hassles. In essence, they have a prop manager whose exclusive job is to "create labels..." (period)

Is the product name vital to the script? I think that's the question you need to ask.

I found it interesting - and even practical to consider this technique. If you have a cousin, niece or nephew who is very creative with the computer. Have them sit down, design a bunch of product templates in photoshop, print them on on labels - and viola'... Instant product...

Just an idea..
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Old April 21st, 2006, 11:08 AM   #10
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Anybody know of a company that supplies phony products for movies? That would be easiest, although probably expensive. Hmmm. Maybe I'll start one.
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Old April 25th, 2006, 12:29 PM   #11
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I have connections with a private label company. So I can help with ficticious prodcuts if anyone is interested.
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