Contract Formed: A Legal Examination of Agreements and Obligations

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There are different fields of media law applied within the South African film industry. These areas of media law include the law of contracts, intellectual property law, freedom of expression and defamation. The law of contact is rooted in Roman and Canon laws (Stone & Devenney, 2017). It is basically a restructured version of Dutch law of contract. It is an agreement entered with an intention of creating an obligation.  This law becomes valid if it has an agreement, the parties have the capacity to act, the performance is possible, the object of contracting parties is lawful and if it complies with constructive formalities. Intellectual property law is a legislation concerning all the copyright protection, trademarks, and patents (Pouris & Inglesi-Lotz, 2017).  The law explains that the copyright for films must be new, original and reduced to material form. The ownership of copyright for films has to vest in the author.

The copyright law shows that when a person commissions the making of a cinematograph film or sound recording and agrees to pay for it in money’s worth, that person shall be the owner of that film copyright. According to the intellectual property laws, the lifespan of copyright for films in South Africa should be 50 years from the date the film was shown. Notwithstanding the transfer of the copyright in a cinematograph film, the author has the right to claim authorship of the work. The moral right of the author ceases after he dies. The defamation which is conducting what refers to another person consists of intentional, wrongful, publication of the defamatory statement, defamatory statement and concerning another person (Lewis, 2017). A person can only claim for defamation if the three essential elements, wrongful, intention, and publication, are presents. The person bringing the matter to the court proving the defamation of character has to show that the remarks were defamatory referred to him and they were published by a Defamer.

Law of Copyright Applied and Its Effects

Provided that the copyright for the film is new, original and reduced to material form, the copyright subsists automatically.  A person working as a professional within the South African film must be a qualified person meaning that the cinematographic film must be made or published first in South Africa in case of a juristic person or a South African citizen. There is no any specific work in which copyright can subsist or eliminate from copyright protection. Copyright can survive on the sound recordings, computer programs, published editions, cinematograph films and program-carrying signals in addition to music works, literary and artistic (Pouris & Inglesi-Lotz, 2017). South African copyright law provides patent registration only to the cinematograph films.  However, failing to register for cinematograph films has no consequences as the copyright act 98 of 1977 has listed the cinematograph film works that are lawful for copyright protection. Therefore, it is easy and effective for a professional in the film industry to obtain a cinematograph film copyright with proof of his rights in a court proceeding. The duration for copyright protection is 50 years from the date the film was shown.

     The ownership of the copyright for films shall vest in the author. The owner of copyright subsisting in the cinematograph film made should be the person who commissions the work made and pay for it in pursuance of that commission or agree to pay for it in money’s worth. A professional has to comply with formalities required for a copyright license such as an exclusive and non-exclusive license (Pouris & Inglesi-Lotz, 2017).  He also needs to conform to assignments of copyright through writing which is assigned by the assignor to make the assignment of ownership valid. Some of the restrictions on cinematograph film include reproducing the work in any form, causing the film to be heard or seen in the public and so on.

The validity of Contract Formed

For the formation of a valid contract, there must be an agreement.  The parties involved in the contract must have the capacity to act. The performance and the object of the contracting parties must be lawful where the performance must be possible. There must be a compliance with constitutive formalities and the consequences or content of a contract must be ascertained or readily ascertainable. When a contract is not provided but merely a phone call asking someone to come and work for a certain amount of money, a person need to ensure the terms of the agreement are legal, possible and broadens the right of a person (Stone & Devenney, 2017). The agreement should be provided on the sound mind and above the age of consent. An individual need to consider the value, right and benefit of the agreement and if the contract requires a large amount of money to be paid, the verbal agreement will need to be enforced. A person would ensure the contract is not obtained through undue influence, duress, fraud, and Menace. The two parties must agree on the same thing in the same sense to a mutual agreement.  Therefore, all the other elements of a valid contract must be fulfilled when the agreement is verbally made through phone calls and so forth.

Method of Collecting Your Salary

The most effective method of collecting your salary as an independent contractor who has not been paid by a production company for services rendered is the use of the contract. A comprehensive project contract with a payment structure could prevent the company from withholding full payment for whatever reasons (Stone & Devenney, 2017). A contractor would use the language and structures that most contracts follow. He needs to approach the company with the terms and conditions of payment it disclosed through a written compensation agreement. If the agreement had described how and when the payment would be made and clearly indicated how payment disputes are settled, the remedies must be then available. So, the contractor would require looking for a help from dispute resolution services such as mediation or either independently resolves the dispute involving payment. However, if the company isn’t happy with something can easily be fixed, honest, kind and open communication is the key. It will be worthy to make one small fix for the client to be happy and ensure the payment is made instead of pushing the company into a defensive mode and eventually ignore everything agreed. In case that method doesn’t work, the contractor needs to explain further his policies to the company and let it know that it was made fully aware of these policies when it first signed up. He should also let the company know that he is an independent contractor, not some big company. This is not to screw over a large company but to make it a little more personal for the Company to change its tune.


Lewis, D., 2017. Whistleblowing and the Law of Defamation: Does the Law Strike a Fair Balance Between the Rights of Whistleblowers, the Media, and Alleged Wrongdoers? Industrial Law Journal.

Pouris, A. and Inglesi-Lotz, R., 2017. The contribution of copyright-based industries to the South African economy. South African Journal of Science, 113(11-12), pp.1-7.

Stone, R. and Devenney, J., 2017. The modern law of contract. Routledge.

September 25, 2023




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