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Marco Leavitt

Taping over logos

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Is this the right thread for this? I mean it as a general filmmaking question.

 

I know that filmmakers routinely (obsessively?) tape over logos and go to extraordinary lengths not to violate trademarks. My question is -- has anyone ever been sued, denied entry to a festival, or otherwise suffered grief for failing to do so? I understand the reasoning behind taping over logos, etc., but I'm just curious to know if there are any sad tales out there about poor suckers who didn't.

Edited by Marco Leavitt

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Is this the right thread for this? I mean it as a general filmmaking question.

 

I know that filmmakers routinely (obsessively?) tape over logos and go to extraordinary lengths not to violate trademarks. My question is -- has anyone ever been sued, denied entry to a festival, or otherwise suffered grief for failing to do so? I understand the reasoning behind taping over logos, etc., but I'm just curious to know if there are any sad tales out there about poor suckers who didn't.

 

Most companies consider "product placement" in a successful film or television show a good thing, but it's always a good idea to seek permission and legal advice, especially if your production might slander or libel the company.

 

Some companies who deal in product placement:

 

http://www.movieplacement.com/

 

http://www.acreativegroup.com/ces/

 

http://www.eclipse-worldwide.com/Brochure1.html

 

http://www.propagandagem.com/

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John,

Yeah, I know, better safe than sorry, and I agree. I'm just beginning to wonder if the whole issue isn't just an urban myth. I'm not advocating that people flout trademark laws. But nobody can seem to come up with an actual example of where this issue has made problems for a production. Isn't it curious that filmmakers stress out about it so much? Again, I plan to go on taping over logos, but I'm feeling increasingly silly doing it.

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This is clearly one of those things indie film people stress over, and for no reason.

 

First, the odds of your film being seen in any wide release is very low. Second, I have never heard of a single case where a filmmaker was sued because an actor drank from a Coke can.

 

If you use a Ford in your film, you mean you have to block out the Ford logo so it's not seen on film? Nonsense, ridiculous, and, you don't have to.

 

R,

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This is clearly one of those things indie film people stress over, and for no reason.

 

First, the odds of your film being seen in any wide release is very low.  Second, I have never heard of a single case where a filmmaker was sued because an actor drank from a Coke can.

 

If you use a Ford in your film, you mean you have to block out the Ford logo so it's not seen on film?  Nonsense, ridiculous, and, you don't have to.

 

R,

 

But if you show the actor getting poisoned by the Coke, or having the wheels falling off the Ford without good cause, you may want to use "generic" props. ;)

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But if you show the actor getting poisoned by the Coke, or having the wheels falling off the Ford without good cause, you may want to use "generic" props.    ;)

 

 

Excellent point! I would swear that I had read that an Adam Sandler movie ran into trouble because of his misuse of some toy. Does anybody remember this? I've done a bunch of searches on the Internet and can't find any reference to it though.

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"But if you show the actor getting poisoned by the Coke, or having the wheels falling off the Ford without good cause, you may want to use "generic" props."

 

Maybe.

 

There is the First Amendment protections. If you want to say in movie, "I'm going to use this Coke to take the rust off of that Ford." Can you be sued for that? I'd say the chances are 1 in a million.

 

What if your actor tries to get away in his new Jag and it won't start, and he curses the Jag, can you be sued for that? Highly doubtful.

 

Remember the cattle ranchers who tried to sue Oprah because she said she'd never eat meat again. They didn't get very far.

 

For good reason slander is very very tough to prove and win on in court.

 

And I'm still having trouble finding a single verifiable case where a filmmaker was actually sued by some company for a logo in a film. Lot's of rumours, little hard evidence.

 

R,

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I did find this on the BBC web site, FYI:

 

"product clearances

All products or logos that are featured prominently in your film (you don?t need to worry about background props) need to be cleared for use by the manufacturers or businesses concerned. It?s often worth getting your art department to create fictional brands instead to avoid the hassle. If you do use real products or logos, find out who to talk to at the manufacturers via the press office. Some of the clearances can be done in pre-production, as the art department should have an idea of which products they want to use, but there will always be products that come up on a daily basis. "

 

So it seems they are mostly concerned about tight shots of logos.

 

I still maintain, for example, that a McDonald's sign seen in the BG behind your actors is not an issue.

 

R,

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"And I'm still having trouble finding a single verifiable case where a filmmaker was actually sued by some company for a logo in a film. Lot's of rumours, little hard evidence."

 

Yeah, that was my initial point. But disparaging somebody's product is a risky move. Didn't a razor company successfully sue an electric shaver company over a commercial that compared traditional razors with scorching your face?

Edited by Marco Leavitt

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Again, where is the actual case and file number for the razor case?

 

That is also a different issue. BTW, don't Coke and Pepsi each make ads that slam the other? How do they get away with that?

 

Here's some very interesting info on the subject. This page also cites the case where Caterpillar LOST their case against Disney for using their logo in a movie. So that's one actual court case in favour of the more liberal and less paranoid position. Case and file number are on this page...

 

http://www.biglist.com/lists/lists.inta.or...4/msg00102.html

 

Am I in trouble if a brand-name product appears in my production?

 

The conservative approach is to obtain authorization (through a

prop release) for all products that appear in your program - or

at least for all products that are featured in some way. This

approach is highly advisable if there are any elements

accompanying the products that might be protected by copyright

(e.g., artwork, book cover, photographs) or by the right of

publicity (e.g., an identifiable image of a person).

 

However, there are court rulings that say the unauthorized

appearance of a brand-named product in a film is okay as long as

(i) the filmmaker is not using the brand or product in a way that

promotes his film (i.e., feeding off the reputation of the brand

to increase awareness of the film - which would be trademark

infringement), (ii) the appearance does not make people think

that the film is sponsored or supported by the producer of the

product, and (iii) the appearance does not dilute the brand name

(i.e., tarnish its reputation or decrease its value as a brand

name). Those are the principles but the application of these

principles is highly subjective and depends on the circumstances

relevant to your particular situation. And just because you're

in the right (regarding the product appearance) does not mean you

will not be sued by the product owner. So you also need to

factor in how aggressively the product owner protects its brand

name.

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This is clearly one of those things indie film people stress over, and for no reason.

 

First, the odds of your film being seen in any wide release is very low.  Second, I have never heard of a single case where a filmmaker was sued because an actor drank from a Coke can.

 

Well I've known filmmakers that thought the odds of their film being in any kind of release, * then it was and they scrambled because of this issue, re-shoots, post tricks...

 

I agree it's absurd when corps want to plaster their logos all over our shirts & coffee mugs, then when it's a movie you better have E&O insurance......

 

-Sam

 

* I'm not sure its a question of "wide" -- as long as there's a distributor involved...

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Still waiting for some one to give me a single verified court case where a corporation successfully sued a filmmaker for a logo in their movie. (case name and file number)

 

If there are none, then clearly this isn't a big issue.

 

R,

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It can become an issue when you're asked to get E/O insurance. Before getting the insurance, a lawyer has to watch the movie and check for clearance/release problems.

 

A logo issue happened to our friends' feature. In the movie, there's a pan across the yard. Even though you could barely see the logo on a bag of fertilizer during the pan, they were asked by the lawyer to show the product release. They didn't have one, so they requested it from the manufacturer, who declined. So at the end, they were forced to digitally remove the logo in order to get the E/O insurance. And they did it because, otherwise they couldn't get distribution without the E/O insurance. The other solution could have been to remove the shot entirely, but in their case, the shot was important to the story of the film.

 

Laurence

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What would have happened if your friends where shooting a scene in Times Square New York, a place packed with hundreds of corporate logos. There's bound to be a few in every wide shot shooting there.

 

Yet there are hundreds of films with scenes shot in Times Square, am I to believe that in every case the filmmakers get a release from all the business owners and corporate entities?

 

Of course this is a separate issue from the internal policies of an insurance company providing E&O insurance, they can make up any rules they want to qualify for their product.

 

Over all it's part of our litigous world, and paranoia over law suits.

 

R,

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What would have happened if your friends where shooting a scene in Times Square New York, a place packed with hundreds of corporate logos. There's bound to be a few in every wide shot shooting there.

 

Well, seeing as a few companies tried to sue Sony for replacing several of its competitor's logos in time square in Spiderman (notably, Samsung Electronics, a Sony rival), it seems unlikely that someone could do the exact opposite (though obviously not impossible).

 

Article on the ruling from the Spiderman case.

 

As I understand it, there is some legal difference between having a product in a shot, and having an advertisment or logo appear in the background of a location. A product bearing a logo (such as the aforementioned bag of fertilizer) can easily be moved, covered up, or replaced with a 'fake' branded product.

However, companies make a conscious effort to have their brand logos prominently displayed in public areas (i.e. Times Square). They cannont in one hand justify spending a hefty sum to have their logo displayed in such a famous public space, and then on the other hand, sue a poor indie production because the companies logo appears in the background.

I'm sure you'd get in much more trouble trying to scale a billboard and cover up a 'Sony' logo with gaffing tape.

The only other option would be to censor your shots and make sure no logos creep in (as you said, an impossibility in Times Square), and THAT would be a first amendment issue.

 

The best option with products, even on extremely low budgets, is to just design something quickly yourself and print it off down at Kinkos. You can even glue it on to an existing box, of say cereal or something. Plus you can print it on a nice matte paper so theres no annoying shine from the lights.

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"The best option with products, even on extremely low budgets, is to just design something quickly yourself and print it off down at Kinkos. You can even glue it on to an existing box, of say cereal or something. Plus you can print it on a nice matte paper so theres no annoying shine from the lights. "

 

Well now there's another interesting point :D

 

What if I make up a fake car company logo and stick it over the Ford logo on the Ford Mustang?

 

It's still a Ford Mustang but the registered trade mark has been covered up and now I call it a "Stallion." Won't Ford be ticked off that I'm now calling their Ford Mustang a "Stallion."?

 

RDCB

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To the fertalizer guy: You should not have needed E&O Insurance to sell a film to a distributer. I know plenty of films sold without E&O.... What was the point in getting E&O Insurance? Think Robert Rodrequez needed E&O to sell El Mariachi (Or however you spell it) to the distributer? Some productions that sell there films never got any kind of Insurance... Which you can do. As long as you dont go Union on your production, or rent equipment.

Edited by Landon D. Parks

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"to the distributer? Some productions that sell there films never got any kind of Insurance... Which you can do. As long as you dont go Union on your production, or rent equipment."

 

To the "distributor"....

 

That sell "their" films....

 

As long as you "don't"

 

Or however you spell it. :D

 

R,

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Most of the films I have worked on require E/O insurance to get distribution. The distributor does not want into inherit some problem so they want the film maker to deal with it. That means E/O insurance. The E/O company doesn?t want to inherit the problem so they contact every company they can id that the producer hasn?t gotten clearance from. So regardless of the fact that you can say no one has been sued. You as a film maker is going to pay a big price for not clearing products, building, and people etc..

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Hi,

 

The problem is that clearly there's a line where something's incidental or not, and making that call is the dangerous bit. Obviously, news crews shoot in the street all the time, including cars, buildings, often corporate logos - and while there are guidelines there too, you can hardly shoot a frame anywhere in the world today and avoid having something depicted to which someone could lay a rights claim. Obviously this is mainly overlooked, or doing a helicopter shot over a city would quickly become impossible. The thing that scares me is at what point does something become clearable, and as I understanding misjudgements here are what E&O policies are for in the first place.

 

Phil

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To the fertalizer guy: You should not have needed E&O Insurance to sell a film to a distributer. I know plenty of films sold without E&O.... What was the point in getting E&O Insurance? Think Robert Rodrequez needed E&O to sell El Mariachi (Or however you spell it) to the distributer? Some productions that sell there films never got any kind of Insurance... Which you can do. As long as you dont go Union on your production, or rent equipment.

 

Hi,

 

By the way, I'm a woman, not a guy; it's a French first name.

You need an E/O insurance ONLY when your distributor requires it, which in the case I mentioned early, it was Warner Brothers. You most always need it for TV deals. My last film for example, Ghost of the Needle, didn't require E/O insurance for the video release because the distributor said so. It really depends on the distributor you have. A lot of times with indies, distributors upfront the cost of insurance for the filmmaker if it's really needed.

 

Laurence

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Well, this has been very illuminating. Regarding the E/O insurance -- it sounds like this is a problem invented by lawyers with no other purpose than to make money for lawyers. That's the way with everything I guess. I'm sure that fertilizer company couldn't care less about the use of their logo. You really can't fault them for not wanting to sign anything though. I wouldn't either.

 

I guess the moral of the story seems to be -- if this is a short destined for at most the festival circuit, and at worst your grandmother's living room, don't sweat it. If it's something you think you can sell, don't risk it.

Edited by Marco Leavitt

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