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April 24, 2023 | Entertainment

What You Should Know Before Starting a Film and TV Streaming Platform

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Author(s)
Marc D. Ostrow

Senior Counsel

Jari Wilson

Associate Attorney

There is no question that most people watch their favorite television shows and movies through streaming platforms.  And as streaming grows, so do the number of streaming platforms.  Recently, a court awarded Disney, Netflix, Universal and other major studios $30 million after a court found that two streaming platforms had been illegally streaming content created by the production companies and studios.  So, if you want to create the next big streaming service or are looking to create the next niche streaming platform, here are some things to keep in mind to avoid shelling out the big bucks.

Create Your Business Entity

The first step before launching your streaming platform is to set up a business entity.  By creating a business entity, you will be able to protect yourself from personal liability from most claims should someone want to sue the streaming platform.  However, a business entity may not protect you from some copyright infringement claims, particularly if the individual has a financial interest and a right to supervise and control the activities of the business.  A business entity can also provide other benefits, including potential tax breaks.  There are several factors to consider when selecting which business entity is right for your company as each entity structure provides different benefits and costs.  An attorney can help determine if a corporation, LLC or other business entity would be the best fit for your new streaming platform company.

Trademark the Streaming Platform’s Name and Logo

Once you have created a business entity and decided what to name your company, the next step is to trademark your company’s name and logo (if you have one).  Trademarks help build your brand and allow consumers to identify your streaming platform from competitors and those trying to impersonate you.  By registering your trademark, you now have a legal avenue to protect your brand from those trying to copy your mark.  You should consult with a trademark attorney prior to attempting to register any name or logo to see if either may infringe upon someone else’s prior marks.  This is typically done through a comprehensive trademark search.

License Your Content

Most streaming platforms are airing films and television shows created by studios and other production companies.  If your streaming platform plans on doing the same, you will need to license the content from the owners of that content in order to avoid being liable for copyright infringement.  By licensing the content, you are getting permission from the copyright holder to stream the film or TV show on your platform.  If there are other copyrighted works used on screen—such as music or visual art—you may need  separate licenses for those as well.  Generally, licensing content involves the payment of a negotiated fee, so be prepared to factor that cost into your budget.  Among the factors that influence the license fee is how popular the content is, how long a period you want for the license and the territory covered by the license.  Moreover, licensing films or TV shows doesn’t necessarily include the right to use any songs included either as featured or background music in these works.  You may need to obtain separate synchronization licenses for any music used other than the underscore and you will also need public performing rights licenses for the music.  Ultimately though, a licensing fee will likely be cheaper than if you were found guilty of copyright infringement.

Copyright Your Original Content & Implement Proper Agreements

Are you planning on making original content and creating the next must-see show?  If so, you will need to register your work with the Copyright Office to obtain valuable protections and make sure the proper agreements are in place.  It is crucial to know what parts of your content the copyright actually protects, and what aspects of the content that others may be able to use even without your permission.  Additionally, you want to ensure that everyone working on the content signs an agreement that allows you to control the final product.  If your goal is to have exclusive content, you do not want someone else to be able to license the product to another streaming service without your permission.

Create a Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

A good Terms of Service and Privacy Policy can ensure that your streaming service complies with relevant state and federal regulations, such as data protection laws, consumer protection laws, and copyright laws.  It can also limit unforeseen liability created by a user’s activity on the service.  Without a clear and concise policy, a video streaming service may be at risk of legal action or may struggle to attract and retain users.

Conclusion

As streaming increasingly becomes the dominant way consumers watch content, more streaming platforms are popping up.  Creating a new streaming platform is no easy task as there are a lot legal and contractual issues to navigate.  An experienced attorney can help alleviate some of the stress with starting your own streaming service and ensure that you are running things in a way that minimizes legal liability.

Photo by to Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
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