In an in-depth Q&A session with Scriptshadow, Partner Lisa Callif draws from her experience helping independent film producers steer through the process of creating a documentary or true story movie. Scriptshadow asked Ms. Callif: Do I need to obtain the rights to someone’s life in order to write about them?
Ms. Callif says the answer is simple, “the law does not require you to obtain life story rights to make a movie that accurately portrays that person.” She explains that the facts of a person’s life are in the public domain, so there is no need to acquire them.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Prominent speeches of public figures have been used in films before, but “a speech is quite different from ‘facts,’ especially a speech that is written before it is recited,” says Ms. Callif. “Under the 1976 copyright act (our current law), copyright protection attaches the minute you put pen to paper,” she adds. Therefore, when writing a film on a prominent figure, it may be beneficial to seek the life rights to whom you are writing on.