There is a new source of information for those researching the reputations and track records of sales agents, distributors and other companies in the independent film world. IFTA, the Independent Film and Television Alliance, recently decided to publish summaries of the awards made by its arbitrators from 2007 through 2010. They are posted on its website at: http://www.ifta-online.org/recent-awards
The summaries include the names of the parties, the name of the arbitrator, the date the award was issued and a short summary of the nature of the award. While IFTA administers the arbitration program, the decisions are solely the prerogative of the arbitrator hearing each dispute.
A review of the award summaries shows that certain companies have been involved in multiple disputes. While this does not necessarily indicate that these companies breached their agreements or are to be avoided, it does offer some insight into disputes that up until recently were not available for public review. Court records are generally available to the public. Arbitration proceedings, however, are usually private and not available for others to review.
Producers contemplating entering into an agreement with a sales agent, for instance, might want to know if that agent was the respondent in numerous disputes. Sales agents thinking of contracting with a territory buyer might find it useful to know if that buyer failed to live up to its contractual obligations in the past.
IFTA Arbitration may be used for a wide variety of domestic and international entertainment disputes, such as those arising out of production agreements, motion picture, television and multimedia licensing agreements, financing agreements, film exhibition agreements and sales agency agreements, to name a few.IFTA Arbitrators are all veteran entertainment attorneys acting as neutral experts who hear arguments, review evidence and issue binding arbitration awards. IFTA Arbitration is usually less formal, faster and costs less compared with litigation in court. Many matters submitted to IFTA Arbitration are settled during the arbitration process.
Filmmakers can use the IFTA Arbitration process if the relevant contract contains an arbitration clause designating the IFTA tribunal to resolve disputes. For disputes arising out of existing contracts that do not provide for IFTA Arbitration, it is still possible to file a claim, as long as both parties agree in writing to use IFTA Arbitration at the time the claim is filed.
Link: IFTA Arbitration Awards
Full disclosure: I am an IFTA arbitrator and also have represented many clients in IFTA, JAMS, and AAA arbitrations.