What are Ancillary Rights in Film & Why Are They Important_

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What are Ancillary Rights in Film & Why Are They Important?

Negotiating the purchase of film rights for intellectual property such as a book, story, or some other published work will represent the foundation of your film project, a starting point at which the rest of your production will build from. During your negotiations, you’re likely to come across something called “ancillary rights in film”. But what are ancillary rights? 

Film Slate

And why are they important for creators, including film producers and independent filmmakers, to understand?

What are Ancillary Rights in Film?

Ancillary rights represent film-related rights. Such as merchandising, multimedia rights, television rights. And the rights to things like soundtracks, music publishing, stage play rights, and the rights to video games or other interactive experiences that are based on the film. 

Ancillary rights are often negotiated during the negotiations between a script or screenplay author. Or the author of some other copyrighted work. Upon which a filmmaker expresses interest in purchasing the film rights to, and the filmmaker themselves. 

Ancillary rights may include any of the following:

  • Sequels and spin-offs. Including live events, movies, and series.
  • Digital products.
  • DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD products.
  • Video games and interactive products including Apps.
  • Print books, e-books and read aloud components.
  • Merchandising including t-shirts, toys, and other products.

Why are Ancillary Rights in Film Important?

Ancillary rights are incredibly valuable to whomever owns the right. Many authors don’t realize what they’re giving up when they sign away ancillary rights to their copyrighted work in the process of entering a rights purchase agreement with a filmmaker or producer. 

There’s a saying in the industry, “You learn the most when you have success.” This is said because if you sign your rights away, you may not be quick to realize what you lost until the film is a major success.

And its related merchandise fills stores, millions of video game copies are sold, or other ancillary products come forth.


All the stuff above and beyond the movie that is produced based on a screenplay or other copyrighted work would be considered ancillary. Therefore, as a copyright owner, you want to do your part to retain ancillary rights.

Or at least to maintain some level of ownership interest in any ancillary rights.

The Takeaway

As you can see, ancillary rights in film represent a lot of different areas in which profits could continue to be made for whomever owns the right to these products. Thus, when it comes to negotiating a rights purchase agreement, it’s very important for all parties to fully understand their rights.

And the rights that they are selling or purchasing as part of the agreement that they sign. When it comes to ancillary rights, signing them away could mean giving up a huge piece of the pie. Especially if the film is a major success!

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