Friday, December 10, 2010


There is a new source of information for those researching the reputations and track records of sales agents, distributors and other companies in the independent film world. IFTA, the Independent Film and Television Alliance, recently decided to publish summaries of the awards made by its arbitrators from 2007 through 2010. They are posted on its website at:

The summaries include the names of the parties, the name of the arbitrator, the date the award was issued and a short summary of the nature of the award.  While IFTA administers the arbitration program, the decisions are solely the prerogative of the arbitrator hearing each dispute.

A review of the award summaries shows that certain companies have been involved in multiple disputes. While this does not necessarily indicate that these companies breached their agreements or are to be avoided, it does offer some insight into disputes that up until recently were not available for public review.  Court records are generally available to the public. Arbitration proceedings, however, are usually private and not available for others to review.

Producers contemplating entering into an agreement with a sales agent, for instance, might want to know if that agent was the respondent in numerous disputes. Sales agents thinking of contracting with a territory buyer might find it useful to know if that buyer failed to live up to its contractual obligations in the past. 

IFTA Arbitration may be used for a wide variety of domestic and international entertainment disputes, such as those arising out of production agreements, motion picture, television and multimedia licensing agreements, financing agreements, film exhibition agreements and sales agency agreements, to name a few.
IFTA Arbitrators are all veteran entertainment attorneys acting as neutral experts who hear arguments, review evidence and issue binding arbitration awards. IFTA Arbitration is usually less formal, faster and costs less compared with litigation in court. Many matters submitted to IFTA Arbitration are settled during the arbitration process.

Filmmakers can use the IFTA Arbitration process if the relevant contract contains an arbitration clause designating the IFTA tribunal to resolve disputes. For disputes arising out of existing contracts that do not provide for IFTA Arbitration, it is still possible to file a claim, as long as both parties agree in writing to use IFTA Arbitration at the time the claim is filed.

Full disclosure: I am an IFTA arbitrator and also have represented many clients in IFTA, JAMS and AAA arbitrations.  



BOSTON,  Friday, February 11, 2011, 8 AM to 5 PM
Writers and filmmakers need to understand their legal rights and how to defend themselves from those who may seek to exploit them. Production companies and distributors often know all the tricks of the trade, while writers and filmmakers know little about how to protect themselves. This seminar, geared towards both artists and attorneys representing artists, explains how writers and filmmakers can prevent problems from arising by properly securing underlying rights, and by encouraging the other party to live up to agreements by adding performance milestones, default penalties and arbitration clauses. In the event of a dispute, participants learn what remedies are available to enforce their rights. Related topics include creative approvals, typical compensation and terms of studio contracts, merchandising deals, and negotiating tactics and strategies. The seminar includes more than 100 pages of useful contracts, checklists, forms and materials.

At Law firm of Fish & Richardson, One Marina Park Drive, Boston MA 02210

Sponsored by the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston / Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts

The Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston, together with one of its core programs, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, strengthens the vibrant arts community in Greater Boston by providing support services to artists and arts organizations, including training, capacity building, legal services, and technical assistance.