Visual Effects (VFX) enabled animation and digital visual arts (CGI) have become a mainstay for the entertainment industry. With an increase in reach of cinema beyond movie theaters to OTT and Live events platforms, the industry has witnessed simultaneous technology boom that has created unaddressed opportunities for Intellectual property rights and legal implications.
“Filmmaking is a costly and a hazardous undertaking”
What are visual effects and visual arts?
Filmmaking is a costly and a hazardous undertaking hence, visual effects (VFX) is a technology enabled process that alters images for visual-action media. Actions that are humanly not possible or too costly to be recorded; is where VFX steps in. The technology integrates imagery into a footage of action sequence that looks like actors have performed it in real life.
Whereas digital arts or digital imagery are computer-generated imagery (CGI) that are generate artistic pieces with the help of digital aid that additionally can be incorporated into the visual effects.
For example, the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park movie are CGI incorporated into the VFX sequences. Therefore, the ambit of IP protection for VFX in entertainment industry broadly resides on.
The following table describes the extent of rights covered based on the level of CGI/VFX and promotional work included in a media project
|Screenplay||Trailer or promotional content||Merchandise Licensing, Broadcast rights|
|Script Production||Advertising and Distribution||Personality Rights|
|Character Sketches, illustrations, and images||Movies, Broadcasts, Gaming||Copyrights & Character Design Patents, Royalties and Broadcast Licensing|
|Character Stills||Comics and Graphic Books||Copyright Royalties, Trademarks and Merchandise Licensing|
In India , presently the animation industry is covered under the parasol of Indian Copyright Act of 1957 .However, the industry is set to evolve this year with the latest projection report by NITI Ayog (National Policy Wing of Indian Government), that estimates the industry at a USD 1.131 billion with a potential of becoming “a USD 100 billion M&E industry by 2030” (Source).Thus, paving the way for various incentive schemes and tax related benefits for the ,Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comic sector (AVGC). The Government in January, 2023 put forth policy recommendations to push international agreements and knowledge transfer treaties for the industry; as well.
At the European Patent Office (EPO), apart from copyright laws, VFX are also categorised as inventions under the formal definitions of computer-implemented inventions (CIIs). To register a patent for VFX the software company or the creator must establish “technical-character,” that goes beyond normal physical interactions and operability between the program and the computer system on which it is executed. Since VFX are related to mathematics based computer programs that generate the visual images, the most patent -worthy aspects lie in the final output of aesthetics and mathematical foundations.
What are the best practices on legalities of IP rights for Animation Companies , Production Houses , Independent Contractors or a VFX creator before creating or using a VFX sequence in their projects? Take a look:
- Use of Artwork and Audio: Make sure the artwork and audio used in your projects meets Fair use doctrines or Fair Use Copyright Disclaimers.
- Errors & Omissions Insurance: Make sure you have the E&O insurance policy before proceeding with any project relating to VFX and CGI enabled elements. E&O insurance guards’ companies and their employees against claims of inadequate service or negligent action by their clients.
- Management of Rights for Computer Codes: While software may seem alike on surface their “mechanic” of final output for the effects are not allowed to be similar unless you are borrowing unlicensed codes or using open-source platform. Hence, in your project, management of rights is vital
- Have a Legal Team: Before undertaking a VFX based project make sure your documentation is accurately managed and terms of services are mutually agreed upon in consultation with your legal team. This enables better productivity and time estimates
- Wage Mapping: This is especially important for independent contractors and VFX freelancers. If you seek work in the VFX creatives industry, your services should sustain and manage risk of competitive poaching. Hence, managing yours and your teams wages with market rates is desirous to keep your ownership upon your work. Additionally, seek membership with formal associations such as Motion Pictures Producers Association , Motion Pictures Association or Indian Visual Effects Society that are beneficial for future market value and reputation.
If you are a VFX creator, an animation company of a post-production services organization, get in touch with us for end-to end management of all your media and entertainment-based projects and save yourself the hassles of legal implications and paperwork.
Get in touch with us for information HERE.