I'm working with a client who wants a 'Fight Club' themed promotional video for his therapy company. How much could I actually get away with before it's considered copyright?
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I agree with Robin... if someone asked me to do that, I'd definitely contact an entertainment lawyer in regards to what you should do. Personally, I feel that if you don't use the dialogue and character names it's like other artists "copying" other works and incorporating it in their art.
Your level of legal exposure depends on the nature/scope of your role, and it depends on the nature of the usage (e.g. parody and other free use, etc.). And why would a promotional video in this scenario described fall under Entertainment Law? Addressing only the part of the question, "Could you get away with" - based on what you wrote, the liability is likely not yours. The way I read your post, you were hired for a specific job as a vendor. Carry out the job you were paid for. If you are worried about yourself, you can ask to be indemnified because you are simply executing the job that you were hired to do. This isn't the perfect example, but look at the Beastie Boys/GoldieBlox suit. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/beastie-boys-settle-lawsuit-over-... If the Beasties write a cease & desist to GoldieBlox, or if GB sues the Beasties, none of these parties is going after the vendor who executed the job. Let's say you're the sound mixer who was hired to mix the song in the commercial. The sound mixer was simply the vendor hired by GB to do a job, and he is unlikely to be named in any filings. GB is the party that needs to vet usage rights, not the work-for-hire vendor. I'm not advocating misdeeds. I'm only saying that based on this post, it doesn't seem like it's your problem.
Well from my experience in the Music Licensing Biz for TV & Radio Commercials copyright infringement was always based on interpretation by the copyright holder. For example a Client wanted a track with a similar vibe to Smoke On The Water. You had studios that did an outright rip off to those that really did an amazing job of capturing the essence without copyright infringement which is hard. I saw more cease and desist notifications regarding sound a likes than anything else. It's a hard nut to crack without the Copyright holders seeing intent to copy!! Then again it also depends on the Market, extent of exposure, the media etc. You could also do a proper credit to the Fight club as a credit at the end of the roll!!!
You can certainly imitate the style and spirit no problem. See this Blade Runner-esque commercial I shot for NASCAR: http://bradrushing.com/commercials_NASCAR-cyborg.php Just don't use the intellectual property: names of characters and entities from the movie or actual lines of dialogue, etc. and you should be fine!