Production Guide Menu
- Acquired Footage/Stills Licenses
- Music Agreements (including, but not limited to Composer Agreements, Sync licenses, Master Use licenses, etc.); Composer agreements to be uploaded as soon as available. All rights including publishing must be obtained for commissioned music.
- Talent agreements/Key Appearance Releases
- Key Location Releases
- Product Integration/Trade Out Agreements
- Game Show/Competition Compliance Agreement (as applicable)
Commission Agreements – Required/Coproduction Agreements – Held by Producer & delivered upon Discovery request:
- Appearance Releases
- Location Releases
- Name/Product/Logo Releases
Please be advised that nothing contained in this section shall be deemed legal advice, but is intended solely for informational and guidance purposes. Production companies should retain their own legal counsel for any legal production matters.
Pursuant to the Producer’s agreement with Discovery, it is the responsibility of the Producer to obtain and secure all required clearances for the program. It is required that the Producer indemnify and hold harmless Discovery from any and all claims which might arise concerning program clearances. Please refer to your contractual agreement with Discovery for required terms. Any variation from this contractual requirement must be discussed and approved, in writing, by the Discovery Business Affairs Department and or the Discovery Production Management Department. See the Rights Waiver Section.
The following are a few guidelines and suggestions, produced by Discovery Business & Legal Affairs, which will assist in limiting the legal liability of your television production. Please make sure that you consult with your legal counsel throughout the course of production to make sure the following issues are addressed.
Any documents relating to the production must be reviewed by the producer’s own counsel before production commences. These documents could include:
- Staff Employee Deal Memorandums
- Talent Contracts/Deal Memorandums
- Real Estate Lease Agreements, etc.
The Producer of the program is the only individual on the production staff authorized to sign contracts, agreements and deal memorandums on behalf of the production.
Please note that if a Discovery standard release has terms added, deleted, or modified, the release should be reviewed by producer’s legal counsel. The required program clearances are as follows:
- PHOTOGRAPHS, PEOPLE, IMAGES AND OTHER LIKENESSES
Any photograph or other likeness of an actual person or persons, living or deceased, should not be used without proper executed clearance (i.e. an appearance release). Production companies must obtain not only the rights in and to the photographs but also the rights to use the images within the photograph. Generally, persons seen in large outdoor groups, street scenes, or other public assemblies can be filmed or videotaped if the persons are given notice (either by posted signs, verbal announcement or both) that they will be filmed or videotaped. When in doubt, check with the producer’s Legal Counsel. Please note that any images of minors must be cleared with parental or guardian consent.
- FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO CLIPS/STILL PHOTOGRAPHS
All film and video clips and trailers as well as audio clips, segments from radio programs and other sound bites, must be cleared by written release. Clearance is required directly from the copyright owner of the material. The payment of fees for the use of film, video and audio clips, and the payment of reuse and/or residuals are the direct responsibility of the Producer. The Production Company must obtain copyright permission for all still photographs. In some cases, payments for reuse of the material and/or residual fees for guild or union members (i.e., SAG, AFTRA, DGA, WGA, AFM, etc.) whose work product is contained in the material will be required.
- MUSIC – See Music Section of Guide.
- ARTWORK (including graphics) Artwork specifically commissioned for the program(s), including graphic art work, will require a contract with the artist noting that the artist is a “work for hire contractor” which means Discovery will own the work completely. Artwork obtained from other sources will require a written release from the copyright owner of the artwork.
Location agreements and releases must be obtained for all locations. The names, logos, or titles of locations (including but not limited to businesses, organizations, street addresses, etc. where any filming takes place) must be cleared for use in the program (Location Release Form).
- PHOTOGRAPHS, PEOPLE, IMAGES AND OTHER LIKENESSES
PRE-PUBLICATION AND LEGAL CLEARANCE ISSUES
In fact-based [and reality] programs, descriptions of events must be accurate. Details of events must be recounted exactly as they occur. Examples include:
- When describing a medical operation, the sequence of a doctor’s actions and actual procedures performed must mirror the actual occurrence, including the use of proper medical terms.
- When describing charges brought against a suspect and/or the crimes of which a defendant is convicted, the terms must be the exact legal terms used (i.e. “John Smith was charged with two counts of first degree murder and convicted of one charge of manslaughter.”) Remember these terms may vary state-by-state.
- Discussing criminals, suspects and court cases in programs requires diligent fact checking and accurate reporting. For example, the difference between someone who is merely a suspect in a crime and someone who is actually charged with a crime is substantial. You must be one hundred percent sure that your statements are accurate in order to help avoid a libel suit.
In addition to accuracy, you must have support for statements made in a production. Defamation suits are brought against productions when statements are allegedly false. However, truth is an absolute defense to a defamation claim, which is why accuracy (as discussed above) is important and the ability to substantiate your statement is just as crucial. General Suggestions:
- Perform diligent research on sources of information.
- Confirm statements with secondary research and documentation.
Once you have checked the facts and thoroughly researched material for your production in many instances you must properly attribute such facts and/or research in the program. Particularly with voice over narration, you must state the support in the program. Often this attribution must be according to official documents. General Examples:
- When discussing the details of a crime, the statements must cite, in a voice over, the support of official documentation such as a police report or court transcript (i.e. “According to court documents, John Smith stole the car from the victim’s garage.”)
- Opinions voiced by a narrator must be attributed to the persons or entities giving such opinion (i.e. “Jane Davis believes her sister Karen, drinks too much …” NOT “Karen Davis drinks too much”.)
Game Show / Competition Compliance
If there is a game or competition component that involves contestants then it is a FCC regulation that dictates that the game has to be played fairly, according to its rules and in a manner described to the public. Follow requirements as detailed in POLICIES section.
Additional General Comments/Suggestions
- Stories should not be one-sided. Particularly with controversial matters, opposing views should always be presented in the program.
- Review your narration and the corresponding video to make certain that statements which may seem innocuous are not potentially libelous or problematic (i.e. generic statements over crowd shots).
- Be aware of privacy and publicity issues.
- Remember that minors cannot legally consent. The permission of a parent or guardian is required when filming or portraying a minor in a program.
- Review your scripts at the rough-cut stage for libelous and defamatory statements.
- Insure that segmented sound on tape, statements and interviews in programs are not taken out of context.
These are just a few prepublication issues in programming. Understanding these and other issues as you produce your program is beneficial to you and the broadcast.
It is also important to evaluate each story and segment within the production on a case-by-case basis as not everything will apply to every situation.
Please continually consult with your legal counsel on all of these matters. Discovery will attempt to provide you will general suggestions such as these, but Discovery is not your legal advisor.