Clearance & Copyright, 5th Edition

Everything you need to know for Film, Television, and other Creative Content

Published January 2023


638 pages
Index, Glossary
Silman-James Press

Clearance & Copyright—now completely revised, updated, and expanded—is the industry standard guide to every conceivable rights issue that filmmakers and other content creators might encounter. From the initial acquisition of material through the rights issues that arise  until final release, this legalese-free guide will help you protect yourself and your work from disastrous legal actions.

Among this edition’s features are links to:

  • 21 downloadable contracts which are discussed and analyzed in the body of the book
  • 56 illustrative film clips related to litigated cases which are discussed in the book
  • 36 color pictures of items litigated in cases discussed in the book

Michael C. Donaldson is a Los Angeles-based entertainment lawyer with more than 50 years of experience in copyright and entertainment issues. He has been called “the Obi-Wan Kenobi of fair use” in the American Bar Association Journal.

Lisa A. Callif’s primary focus is on representing independent content creators from development through distribution. She also serves as general counsel to the nonprofit organizations Film Independent and Women in Film and represents multiple live theaters in Los Angeles.  Among her many accolades, Lisa has been recognized by the Hollywood Reporter as a “Power Lawyer.”

Christopher L. Perez advises on all aspects of independent filmmaking, including development, financing, production, rights clearance, and distribution. He serves as Co-President on the board of directors for the International Documentary Association and was named one of “Hollywood’s new leaders” by Variety and an “Attorney of the Year” by California Lawyer.

About Michael C. Donaldson

MICHAEL C. DONALDSON is an entertainment attorney who has been fighting for independent filmmakers for over forty years. Dubbed the “legal Obi-Wan Kenobi” and “fair use guru of the documentary film set” in the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal, he has gained a national reputation as an expert on clearance and rights-related issues. He has testified before Congress on copyright reform relating to orphan works, and he successfully negotiated with insurance companies to offer fair use riders on E&O insurance policies, which has allowed many films to be made under the fair use doctrine. He served on the Legal Advisory Board for the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. He is past President of the International Documentary Association (IDA) and current General Counsel to Film Independent, home of the Spirit Awards.  Michael wrote the first edition of Clearance & Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television in 1996; this fifth edition has been updated by the entire law firm of Donaldson Callif Perez. Other books by him are Negotiating for Dummies and Fearless Negotiating, and he coauthored The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Independent Filmmaking: Contracts, Copyright, and Everything Else You Need to Know with his partner Lisa Callif.  Michael has competed in the Senior Olympics in gymnastics, winning three gold medals for the parallel bars and a silver medal for rings. He works out weekly on the flying trapeze and participates in swimming events internationally. Michael is married to Tim Kittleson and has three daughters—Michelle, Wendy, and Amy—as well as a granddaughter, Soul, and two grandsons, Caden and Canyon. .

About Lisa A. Callif

Lisa A. Callif, named by Variety as one of “the best and the brightest” (2011), is an entertainment attorney whose primary focus is on representing independent filmmakers in all aspects of their moviemaking, including development, production, and distribution. As part of her practice, she does a significant amount of clearance work for documentaries, including rendering fair use opinion letters, which permit her clients to use limited amounts of unlicensed material in their films under the fair use doctrine as codified in U.S. copyright law. In addition to her work with independent film, Lisa is one of the few attorneys in Los Angeles to represent live theaters. Donaldson Callif Perez represents the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, the Geffen Playhouse, and other Los Angeles–based theater companies, as well as playwrights and composers. Prior to working with her now-partner Michael C. Donaldson, Lisa spent four years at Proskauer Rose. Lisa graduated summa cum laude from New York University with a BS in communications, and worked in the music indus-try in New York and Los Angeles before obtaining her JD from Southwestern School of Law. In law school, she participated on the moot court team (where she placed first in both writing and oral advocacy in a national competition), served as a Lead Articles Editor on the Southwestern Law Review, and wrote an article about online distribution of motion pictures that was published by Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal. In 2010, Lisa co-wrote The American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Independent Filmmaking: Contracts, Copyright, and Everything Else You Need to Know with Michael Donaldson. Lisa is an adjunct professor at Southwestern and a frequent speaker on panels sponsored by Film Independent, the American Pavilion, and UCLA (where she also teaches “legal basics” at the UCLA Professional Producers Program). She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Dustin, and their sons, Dylan and Liam. 

About Christopher L. Perez

CHRISTOPHER L. PEREZ specializes in all aspects of the firm’s practice at Donaldson Callif Perez, including representing independent filmmakers through development, financing, production, rights clearance, and distribution. He serves as counsel to writers, pod-cast producers, radio personalities, museums, and foundations, as well as Film Independent, which produces the Spirit Awards. He has also been a leader on several of the firm’s advocacy projects, including the landmark triennial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) exemptions secured for filmmakers since 2009. Chris also sits on the Board of Directors for the International Documentary Association.  Prior to joining DCP, Chris worked for California Lawyers for the Arts, Technicolor, and the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. He has lectured on production, distribution, financing, and clearance issues at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, China; the UCLA Producers Program; USC Gould School of Law; the USC School of Cinematic Arts; UC Irvine; CalArts; the School of Visual Arts; Columbia College Chicago; and other institutions. He has also participated in mentor programs for the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP), the International Documentary Association, Film Independent, the Sundance Institute, and other arts organizations.  Chris attended the USC Gould School of Law, where he was active with the Latino Law Students Association and the Public Interest Law Foundation. He attended the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, studying Film Studies and American Culture and working on several student films. He currently serves as Co-President of the Board of Directors for the International Documentary Association. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Maria, two children, Emery and Jack, and Bill Paxton, their dog.

“If you only buy one book to guide you through the various challenges facing you as a filmmaker, this is that book. It covers subjects that are simply not covered in any other publication.”
Josh Welsh, President of Film Independent

“This book has never been more valuable and relevant. It is the bible for clearance professionals, creators, and distributors.”
Ted Sarandos, Co-CEO and Chief Content Officer, Netflix

“Legal clearances are critical components of every film production. This book provides you with an unwavering confidence that your projects are comprehensively cleared for delivery.”
Glen Zipper, Founder & CEO, Zipper Bros Films

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