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

Writer Collaboration Agreement / Verbal & Oral Agreements

Discussion in 'Employment Contracts & Work Policies' started by D_Burke19, Nov 4, 2019.

  1. D_Burke19

    D_Burke19 Law Topic Starter New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Jurisdiction:
    Other
    Hello I'm hoping someone can give me some advice. I'm a screenwriter and I was approached by two friends to enter into a Writer's Collaboration Agreement (WCA). In total there are three of us.

    Since I am a screenwriter, my services was needed in order to write a film script based on a written treatment/synopsis. Before I signed the agreement we all verbally agreed that this was to be a team effort, everyone would have equal input, there was to be transparency and no one would make unilateral decisions, all changes/edits/revisions would be discussed and agreed upon by all collaborators. And the WCA would reflect this in the sense that we all would be co-owners. Here are a few key clauses of the contract:

    Clause 1. The parties shall collaborate of in the writing of the Work and upon completion thereof shall be the joint owners of the Work in the following percentages: Collaborator 1 (C1) 33.3%, Collaborator 2 (C2) 33.3% and Collaborator 3 (C3) 33.3% (instead of listing our names, I've decided to just use C1, C2, and C3.

    Clause 2. Upon completion of the work, it shall be registered with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Copyright Office as joint owners.

    Clause 5. If, prior to the completion of the Work, there shall be a dispute of any kind with respect to the Work, then the parties may terminate this Collaboration agreement by an instrument in writing, which shall be filed with the Writer's Guild of America West, inc.

    Clause 8. None of the parties shall sell, or otherwise voluntarily dispose of the Work, or his/her share therein, without the written consent of the others, which consent, however, shall not be unreasonably withheld.

    P.S. As far as jurisdiction, I didn't know what to put. The WCA was signed in Taipei, Taiwan, however, the script is planning to be marketed and produced in the United States and/or Canada and it involves a US Copyright and Writer's Guild Registration.

    Okay so based on the oral agreement about how we approach this Work as equals, I took a risk and signed the agreement. Everything went well at first, but then Collaborator 1 (C1), started making changes without consulting myself or Collaborator 2 (C2). When we called him up on what he was doing which included making changes to the script without consulting us he became cold. C1 was to return to Canada for summer holiday and we all agreed that we'd meet up again when he returned to continue writing together. Needless to say when he returned he never contacted us. I didn't mind the extra time because I had other personal projects that I needed to work on that I put on hold because of this script. However in March 2019, C1 approached me and told me he had already finished drafts 2-6 without our knowledge (he was supposed to contact us so that we all could work together). He also said that he had pitched them online pitch services and also already paid to get his version of the script evaluated by Script Doctors. C2 and myself were shocked and very taken aback by this behavior. However we decided to give him the benefit of doubt and asked to read. Needless to say it we didn't like a lot of the changes at all and his additions were badly written (again, C1 is not a screenwriter).

    I gave C1 my honest opinion of what i thought and he became defensive. C2 gave her opinion as well which agreed with mine and C1 just accused her of mirroring my opinion, implying that she was not thinking for herself. C1 insisted that his version of the script was the best direction. Again, I disagreed and I reminded him that we all agreed on the tone and characterization. But he insisted that all needed to change.

    After that C1 pretty much became unresponsive. So, I figured if he could work on the script then so could I. I rewrote the first 20 pages and sent it to all three collaborators and asked them for their opinion. C2 liked what I wrote but C1 never responded. However, on April 25, 2019 he sent C2 a "for your eyes only" email. I wasn't to know about this email. In the email, he tried to coerce C2 into not only siding with his version of the script but to also cheat me out of the percentages of the profit among other things. In the email he also told her that he would give her 30 days to think about and respond to his email and if he didn't hear from her he would "act on his own". I have no idea what he meant by this, so in a panic to protect our rights with this Work, I immediately registered it with the Copyright Office and I also registered it with the WGA West. I listed all three collaborators as co-authors but I listed C2 as the Claimant (since this entire story was her idea), this was done in error as per the clause according to the WCA I was to list all three collaborators as Co-owners.

    Anyhow, I notified all three parties what I had done and I offered to get this project back on track. I informed C1 that I didn't trust him which was why I put everything in C2's name. I sent this to each collaborator on August 2019. I offered the chance to work together again but I did stress that C1 has broken trust and I explained to him that he was in breach of --- if not the WCA but our Verbal Agreement of working together as a team where everyone had an equal say.

    October 31, I received an email from an Intellectual Property Firm from Canada it was a WITHOUT PREJUDICE EMAIL. The Litigator explained to me that I had registered the copyright and wga registration in bad faith and I needed to correct it (I get this and I have no problem correcting both registrations) but the email also made a slew of false accusations against me and it ended it C1's terms for a resolution which were:

    1. He wanted me OFF THE PROJECT as he didn't want to work with me again, and
    2. All three collaborators dissolve the contract while he retained the story rights.

    Basically, my question is, why does the law seem in his favor? why is he deciding the terms for resolution and also can I demand payment for the work done? I wrote a complete first draft (100 page) feature-length screenplay and he's demanding I'm off the project while he still retains the story rights which he can eventually (if he's lucky) sell and profit from. Shouldn't I be paid for my work?

    I was wondering if I can set terms of my own such as:

    1. Compensated for my work.
    2. He cannot use any of the dialogue that I wrote. He'll had to rewrite the entire screenplay from scratch and no use any of my script.

    Also, doesn't a verbal/oral agreement have as much weight as the written contract? I would have never entered into this agreement if I weren't guaranteed that we'd all have equal pay. BTW, I have emails and witnesses that can attest to the verbal agreement.

    Anyhow, I feel as if I have no rights in this and I have no idea how to respond to the letter he sent through this Copyright attorney, who's only acting as arbitrator, so it seems. i would have loved to attached a few letters but I felt I included as much information as possible.

    Anyhow, thank you all in advance for any advice.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
  2. justblue

    justblue Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,375
    Likes Received:
    1,050
    Trophy Points:
    113

    This site is for US Law only.
     
  3. D_Burke19

    D_Burke19 Law Topic Starter New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    I'm aware of that.

    This is regarding a script that was filed with the United States Copyright Office using a Wriiter's Collaboration Agreement with jurisdiction for rights in the United States. The script will be marketed in the United States. The writer's are American. The only thing that is foreign is that the agreement was signed overseas.
     
  4. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,695
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Trophy Points:
    113

    The contract will be governed by the laws of your home country, so any contract dispute would need to be settled there.

    EDIT: In any case, your matter is beyond the scope of an internet forum, so you're going to want to speak to a legal professional in your area (to start).
     
  5. D_Burke19

    D_Burke19 Law Topic Starter New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    My home country is America. All collaborators are American. But thank you for your time.
     
  6. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,695
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Trophy Points:
    113

    Make sure you explain that to your legal representative.
     
  7. D_Burke19

    D_Burke19 Law Topic Starter New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    I wouldn't have posted my query on a US Law Site if I weren't American.
     
  8. justblue

    justblue Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,375
    Likes Received:
    1,050
    Trophy Points:
    113

    What country was the contract drawn up and signed in?
     
  9. D_Burke19

    D_Burke19 Law Topic Starter New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    I just need simple advice to the situation I presented. I've already made it clear this is an American Issue. If people can't answer or address the situation I presented and let me deal with the other details and legalities then with all due response don't bother. I just don't have time for this.

    It's simple. I'm asking about Verbal Agreements in American. Copy Right Agreements in America. WCA Agreements in America. How are these situations handled in America? Everyone lives in America. This has American jurisdiction.

    I just need a general idea of how these things are handled to give me some perspective. And then when I finally do contact a lawyer, I'll have a good idea of what to do and where to go.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
  10. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,695
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Trophy Points:
    113


    Taiwan.
     
    justblue likes this.
  11. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,695
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Trophy Points:
    113

    You would want to speak to an attorney - your matter is too complex for an internet forum. Best of luck to you.
     
  12. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,867
    Likes Received:
    1,349
    Trophy Points:
    113

    Does your WCA say that disputes are governed by the laws of a particular jurisdiction? If so, what is that jurisdiction?

    Why do you think the law is in C1's favor? Just because some lawyer in Canada being paid by C1 says they are?

    Your post is exceedingly long, and I did not carefully read the whole thing. However, as far as I understood what you wrote, C1's lawyer is merely proposing terms for resolution. You can demand and propose anything you like.

    Depends on the terms of the WCA.

    I don't know. Does the WCA contain an integration clause?

    Since your adversary is represented by a lawyer, you would be foolish not to retain one yourself.
     
    Zigner likes this.
  13. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

    Messages:
    33,879
    Likes Received:
    5,518
    Trophy Points:
    113


    I know of no country that is named America.

    You are posting from the country known as Taiwan.
     
  14. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

    Messages:
    9,298
    Likes Received:
    3,031
    Trophy Points:
    113

    No, that's backwards. FIRST you go to a lawyer, explain what you have explained here and THEN the lawyer can give you perspective on what to do.

    I re-opened the thread. If anybody has any helpful comments for the OP, please post them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
    Zigner likes this.

Share This Page