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Do you need a signed release form when writing a script that includes a real personality?

By Robert L. Seigel

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Question: I am writing a script that has a section that includes a real personality. This person has seminars that teach this belief and is used throughout the story. He has read the story and loved it. He has said he would sign a release but my writing instructor said forget it. He could always come back on me and cause problems later on, if the script is made into a successful movie. What do I do?

If you featuring a living person in your project, you should get a release from that person in which the release states that the person is waiving any and all claims that he or she may have concerning the project against you and your successors, licensees or assigns. This is important since you do not want that person pursuing a claim against a project's distributor or licensee which is usually the so-called "deep pocket." There should be a reference in the release that the person is not entitled to compensation for signing the release. If that is not the case, either reconsider featuring this person, significantly fictionalize this person to the point that he or she is not discernable or negotiate some form of fee or compensation for his or her waiver, cooperation and perhaps exclusivity to some extent so that another project does not feature him or her within a certain period of time. This question dovetails into the issue of life story rights which I should be addressing sometime in the future.

About Robert L. Seigel

Robert L. Seigel ([email protected]) is a NYC entertainment attorney and a partner in the Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP law firm which specializes in the representation of clients in the entertainment and media areas.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. You should not act or rely on such information without seeking the advice of an attorney and receiving counsel based on your particular facts and circumstances. Many of the legal principles mentioned might be subject to exceptions and qualifications, which are not necessarily noted in the answers. Furthermore, laws are subject to change and vary by jurisdiction.
Screenwriting Article by Robert L. Seigel

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