This post is about legalities that we need to consider when making a film that, as unreasonable as they may seem, we have to think about and check up on to make sure we are not violating anyone's trademark, copyright, or other rights.
Back in 2006 the Ford Motor Company mortgaged most of their assets in order to raise enough money to restructure the company. Popularly quoted articles usually mention that this includes the famous "Blue Oval." As part of the agreement of mortgaging these assets Ford Motor Company is required to dilligently defend the trademarks that have been used as collateral. As a result, you really need to be following the trademark laws to the "T".
In 2008 a Mustang club was going to make a calendar of the member's cars. When Ford read about this on their forum they were contacted and told that this was not allowed because they would be violating Ford's trademark on the Ford and Mustang names and logos if used to make a profit by selling calendars with these logos pictured in them, even though the members owned these cars. Particularly, the "running pony" emblem of the Mustang is trademarked and it cannot be reproduced in images for the sake of profitting from them.
In the end the club was allowed to make the calendars as long as they were only paying manufacturing costs to produce the calendars for themselves. However, the manufacturer that they had lined up to make the calendars chose not to make them for the purposes of elliminating any possible legal issues with Ford.
So I contacted Ford via email. I was referred to their "Team Detroit" organization (http://www.teamdetroit.com/). I told them I was looking to make a movie with a 1966 Mustang in it to enter into film festivals. I was not looking to sell the film, just exhibit my abilities and hopefully get noticed, and maybe win a prize. They were very helpful. They informed me that as long as I wasn't making anything that was defaming the Ford or Mustang names, or otherwise painting them in a very ill light, it was fine to make a movie with the car in it. I had also asked if I needed to mask any logos and was told I did not need to.
This email is now archived and I am holding onto it for legal purposes. It's nice to have it in writing.
Normally, I never would have given this a thought. However, my involvement at automotive message boards made me aware of this situation and it came in handy for me to know so that I could inquire about this issue. So before you just plod on ahead with your project, think like a lawyer and look to see if there are any issues you need to look in to. It might keep you from breaking your budget with an unexpected legal fee.
- Steve Olander
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