1. Free Legal Help, Legal Forms and Lawyers. TheLaw.com has been providing free legal assistance online since 1995. Our most popular destinations for legal help are below. It only takes a minute to join our legal community!

    Dismiss Notice

Screenplay option

Discussion in 'Copyright, Trademark, Patent Law' started by gwennerstrom, Jul 19, 2002.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. gwennerstrom

    gwennerstrom Law Topic Starter New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I have had a book published and and now I've been approached by a screenwriter to turn it into a film which I would like to do. I told my publisher my desires and they say they own all rights to any film being made. And tell me that I can't have him write the screenplay that only they can negotiate such a deal. They have referred me to section 17 of our Publishing Agreement, which I quote here:

    ROYALTIES AND COMMISSION
    <Sniped info on how much I’m paid in per centages> and in addition The Publisher shall pay to The Author a commission of fifty per cent of all sums less any expenses incurred received by The Publisher in respect of film broadcasting television reprint and soft cover rights and royalties and commission shall be calculated <Sniped info as to when I’m to be paid>

    Maybe I'm wrong but I don't see where they "own" the rights to any film being made, or have the "right" to negoiate such a deal.

    I'm keen to go with the screenwriter as he has a proven track record and has offered me a better per centage than the Publisher can. Can you please advise.

    Regards and thank you for your time,
     
  2. Cloneman

    Cloneman New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Film Options

    Whether or not you may negotiate the screenplay rights turns on whether you own the underlying copyright in your book. The default position is that you own the copyright unless 1) you created the work as a "work for hire", or 2) you have assigned your copyright to the work to another party.

    Nothing in the paragraph you quoted covers the ownership of the book's copyright. You are right that the clause is not on point. It appears only to speak to the division of royalties from the sale of film rights, not to ownership, and thus ability to negotiate those rights.

    You should search your contract to see whether or not there is a copyright assignment clause. Alternatively, look for the phrase "work for hire," for example: "the author agrees that she creates this textbook as a work for hire." Unless it expressly has the magic words "work for hire" it is NOT a work for hire (and generally, novel do not fall into the limited category of works the copyright statute considers a work for hire).

    Best advice: seek a lawyer. It appears that you may have the right to negotiate the film rights, if in fact the contract is silent on the issue of copyright ownership.

    Best of luck - Cloneman
     
  3. Cloneman

    Cloneman New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Screenplay Option Cont'd

    I want to amend slightly what I wrote yesterday. Upon second glance, I see that your posting is from England. What I wrote pertains to American copyright law - I do not know English law well at all.

    That being said, from what little I know of English copyright law, it is somewhat similar to U.S. law. For instance, American courts will accept an English court's decision as binding precedent in the field of copyright precisely because the two systems are so similar.

    Still, you should check with your local solicitor to see whether you have a claim. Under U.S. law you would. One potential route would be to file a copyright registration in America, thus availing yourself of both U.S. law as well as the international copyright treaties with which both the U.S. and England are members.

    Best of luck, I look foreword to another post from you with an update.
     
  4. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    9,007
    Likes Received:
    543
    Trophy Points:
    113

    Actually, Cloneman's posting is accurate as is -- the clause referred to is with regard to royalties. Typically, this means that some right has been transferred to paying party, in this instance, the publisher. The way it reads it seems that gwennerstrom might have given the publisher the rights or granted the publisher an exclusive license to the right to publish in a particular medium but that clause would be found elsewhere in the contract.
     

Share This Page

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.