In the entertainment and media industries, clearing a property refers to the practice of securing permission to use copyrighted material or personal likeness, or researching a property to ensure that there are no ownership claims and disputes. This is a necessary step in reproducing or appropriating work such as photographs, songs, television clips, or names.
The clearance coordinator is responsible to the manager or director of rights and clearances, and is tasked with numerous activities related to securing licenses or rights for the use of copyrighted material. Specific functions will include generating clearance requests and other correspondence to the copyright holder and drawing up appropriate license agreements. This person will negotiate and administer contracts and continually update the department’s database with pertinent information concerning contracts, owner information, royalty data, and cue sheets. He or she takes in requests to seek clearances from department supervisors or from producers and post-production staff, depending on the established procedures of the company. For example, to use a behind-the-scenes interview with an actor on set of his new film for a promotional website, the coordinator would negotiate with the production company that shot the footage, the producers of the film, and the management company representing the featured actor.
Similar processes are necessary for reprinting, broadcasting, or displaying all copyrighted material. This includes using a film clip in a television show, sampling a recorded song in a video game, or printing a celebrity’s likeness in a magazine or on product packaging. In film, television, or news production, a clearance coordinator may also be responsible for obtaining permission from background performers (extras) or passers-by that appear in footage. A production assistant on set or in the field usually accomplishes this by having the actor or bystander sign a standard release form, but it is the coordinator’s job to log those releases and record the information in the event of a later dispute.
Skills & Education
A bachelor’s degree in entertainment business, music business, or communications is required. A law degree is useful, but not required. Most colleges and universities offer courses in mass communication law, copyright law, licensing, and related areas as part of undergraduate studies, and these classes will prove invaluable in your career. Knowledge of film and television production, record labels, and publishing is necessary as it pertains to your specific career aspirations. Experience in an entertainment or media company is preferred prior to employment. Excellent computer skills and strong written and verbal communication skills are essential. The clearance coordinator should be capable of developing strong professional relationships while still acting as a savvy negotiator on behalf of his or her employer.
What to Expect
This is an entry-level position with appropriate education. Employment opportunities exist within production companies, advertising agencies, print publications, video game developers, or other media and entertainment companies that have occasion to seek the use of copyrighted material. This position is closely related to that of licensing administrators and clearance administrators working in the music industry. Experience as a clearance coordinator can lead to advancement to the manager level, or to positions such as associate producer, segment producer, or a related career. This is an excellent first step for an individual seeking to grow in the business side of entertainment production, as you will have the opportunity to communicate and network with other industry professionals in music, film, television, and live production.
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