With product placement a ripe source now for revenue, entertainment lawyers increasingly are getting called on to to know where and when to obtain copyright and trademark licenses or releases for items appearing in movies and TV programs. With a tip of the cap to the always informative lawyer-blogger Lionel Sobel at the Entertainment Law Reporter, here are answers to how counsel should answer when quizzed about showing cash, money, currency, moolah or dough in some fashion on screen.
Sobel, for example, points to a post by entertainment lawyer David Albert Pierce at the MovieMaker about filming money; a law permitting use of cash in motion pictures can be found in the U.S. Code under “ ‘Printing and Filming of United States and Foreign Obligations & Securities’ (18 USC 504).” Pierce said the use of “prop money” can create more complications than actual cash. Those who would film fake money “must fully comply with the requirement of ‘The Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992’ (31 CFR 411).’” This act proves rigorous, meaning that filming real money may be easier. But, Pierce notes, this can pose another problem: finding the needed sums. If the production happens to call for torching cash, complying with the law may be the only option since, he says, “burning actual currency is a crime set forth under 18 USC 333.”
In Canada, Bob Tarantino addresses this topic at the Entertainment & Media Law Signal. In his article, he says the “Policy on the Reproduction of Bank Note Images,” published by the Bank of Canada, says creative types need not seek official permission to use Canadian bills; if images of currency “are intended to show something other than a general indication of currency or where there is a danger that the images could be misused,” then permission from the Bank of Canada (the currency copyright holder) is required.