I am in pre production of a short movie meant for film festivals, mostly in USA. In this short thriller, there's this scene that takes place at a Halloween theme costume party, so everyone(actors and extras) there is dressed in their favorite horror movie characters. The main characters in this short are dressed as well known popular superheroes.
I was wondering if this is gonna cause my any legal trouble. There are no poster or logo and anything like that in frame. Only the actors in this scene or dressed as well known popular movie characters
If your characters in your work dress up like famous movie characters there are at least trademark infringement, copyright infringement, and trade dress infringement concerns, and you may be liable; you should discuss with an intellectual property attorney in a private consultation.
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This does not have to be a problem. You are free to have your fictional characters dress up like their favorite movie actors. This is no different from a sitcom for example where one of the characters dresses up like Groucho Marx for the Halloween party. So long as it is clear that it is a costume and you are not defaming anyone or using their name image or likeness to help sell or promote a good or service you should avoid publicity and privacy rights issues.
If you need clarification, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed with the law firm of Natoli-Legal, LLC on the basis of this posting.
I agree with Attorney Natoli that this is no problem. Including a scene in a fiction work showing costumed characters is not a use of those characters "in commerce," so should not implicate any trademark/trade dress/unfair competition issues.
As for copyright issues, unless your short film is substantially similar to another work (whether short film or not), there shouldn't be any copyright issues either.
You should still hire production counsel before production to handle any case/crew/location/product placement issues, as well as to "vet" your script, acquire any needed music clearances, and make sure that when your film's finished, it's properly registered for copyright.
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