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Tips for film distributors

Ethics Before Profits
Law Offices of Ernest Goodman > Copyright Law  > Tips for film distributors

Tips for film distributors

In the intriguing case of Randles Films v Quantum Releasing (2014), the complexities of copyright law, particularly the extraterritoriality limitation of the US Copyright Act, come to the forefront. This case serves as a pivotal example of how copyright laws are applied in cross-border disputes and the extent to which US copyright protections extend beyond its borders.

Background of the Case

Randles Films, a US-based entity, found itself in a legal tangle with Quantum Releasing, involving the distribution of copyrighted material. The crux of the dispute centered around the international distribution rights and alleged infringement activities that occurred outside the United States.

Key Legal Issues

The case raised significant questions about the reach of the US Copyright Act:

  • Does US copyright law apply to acts of infringement committed entirely outside of the United States?
  • How do courts reconcile the principles of copyright law with the realities of global distribution and digital dissemination?

Court’s Interpretation

The court’s decision in Randles Films v Quantum Releasing hinged on the interpretation of the Copyright Act’s extraterritorial application. It delved into the historical context of the law, prior case precedents, and the evolving nature of international copyright agreements.

The Ninth Circuit held that, ‘[A]lthough damages caused by foreign acts of infringement are not recoverable, the Copyright Act’s extraterritoriality limitation does not bar recovery for losses that are caused entirely by domestic acts of infringement’.

This case highlights the danger of joint and several liability for distributors under the US Copyright Act, even if infringement partially occurred overseas. Some domestic acts of infringement are enough to collect all damages from a domestic distributor for worldwide infringement.

Implications for Filmmakers and Distributors

This case underscores the multifaceted challenges that content creators and distributors encounter in the increasingly interconnected global market. It brings to light the complexity of navigating international copyright laws, which can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another. This reality places a premium on having a clear and comprehensive understanding of these legal variances and their implications for content distribution and protection.

Moreover, the case stresses the importance of drafting robust agreements that meticulously address the scope and limitations of copyright laws in different countries. These agreements are crucial for defining the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved, and for ensuring that the distribution of content does not inadvertently lead to legal infringements. Such precision in agreements helps in mitigating the risks of costly legal disputes and potential liability issues that can arise from differences in copyright enforcement and interpretation around the world.

Attorney Fees are Also Recoverable

In the realm of copyright law, an often overlooked but crucial aspect is the recovery of attorney fees. This is particularly relevant in cases where infringement is established. When a party successfully asserts their rights under the Copyright Act, not only can they seek damages for the infringement itself, but they are also entitled to recover reasonable attorney fees. This provision serves as a significant deterrent against copyright infringement, as it adds a substantial financial risk for the infringing party. Importantly, the decision to award attorney fees lies at the discretion of the court and is generally contingent upon factors such as the success of the claim, the reasonableness of the fees requested, and the objectives of the Copyright Act. In essence, the ability to recover attorney fees can greatly influence the dynamics of copyright litigation, encouraging rightful owners to assert their rights and discouraging potential infringers from unlawful exploitation of copyrighted works.


Randles Films v Quantum Releasing is more than just a legal battle; it’s a lesson in the complexities of applying national laws in an increasingly interconnected world. It underscores the importance of careful planning and legal guidance when engaging in international distribution of copyrighted content.

The decision in this case has far-reaching implications for content creators, distributors, and legal professionals navigating the complex terrain of international copyright law. It serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding the extraterritorial limitations of the US Copyright Act in our globally connected era.

The practical application of the holding in Randles Films case to distributors of copyrighted work is a straightforward own – if found liable for copyright infringement, a distributor may be single-handedly liable for the entire value of the copyrighted work. An extraterritoriality limitation will not help a distributor to avoid liability.

Tips for distributors

  1. Vigilance with Licensors: Distributors, such as film distributors, need to be especially cautious when dealing with new or less experienced licensors. These licensors might not have significant assets or deep knowledge of the Copyright Act’s requirements.
  2. E&O Insurance Necessity: Distributors should secure Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance to protect against potential insolvency of the licensor. It’s important to be named as an insured on the E&O policy that covers copyright infringement suits and ensure the policy was in place before their involvement in the work.Errors and Omissions Insurance for Films can safeguard film, television, and video producers from the financial consequences of professional errors, encompassing both negligence and breaches of contract or rights.
  3. Verify Chain of Title: Distributors must independently verify the chain of title of the works they distribute. They must conduct their own due diligence. Relying solely on a licensor’s assurances isn’t enough, as lack of knowledge of infringement does not protect against joint tortfeasorship claims.
  4. Include Indemnification Provisions: It’s crucial for distribution agreements to have indemnification clauses. These protect the distributor from liability in copyright infringement lawsuits, although their effectiveness depends on the financial stability of the indemnifying party.

These tips aim to guide distributors in mitigating risks associated with copyright infringement and ensuring legal and financial protection in their business operations.

Stay tuned for more insights and analyses of key legal cases and developments in the world of copyright law.

Note: This post is a general overview and does not constitute legal advice. For specific legal concerns, it’s always recommended to consult with a qualified attorney.





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