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whiterat
12-16-2004, 03:38 PM
Hi there.

I ask for some help on this problem Iīm facing.
I want to make a short film, based on a short story from a fantasy writer. Well, the writer is dead and I donīt have a clue where to ask permission to make that short.

So my question is can I make the short anyway or I have to look who has the copyrights over the story and ask permission to he/she/them to make the short?

Iīm not looking make any money whit it, is just selfpromotion.

Make myself clear?

Thanks to all....

Miguel

marchermann
12-16-2004, 03:45 PM
For how long has he been dead for? More than seventy years? Then (at least in Germany) you can go ahead.

Otherwise you should ask for permission. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to buy rights. You might as well be granted them fro free, but you should aks nevertheless. The publisher of his books might be a good starting point.

Marc

DigiLusionist
12-16-2004, 04:09 PM
Miguel, yes, you need to secure permission from the estate that owns the rights or from the representative of that estate. If the work you want to base your project on is, as marcboy mentioned, less than seventy years old, the rights are probably being protected by someone.

Even if you don't plan to make money off of your project, the folks who have the rights to the work are very protective of every manifestation of the idea. Even if the manifestation is in the form of your personal project. The fact is, the work belongs to them.

EDIT: Also, you usually can't "buy the rights" from the author or his/her representatives. You secure a license to use the work in a limited fashion (i.e., first print run for a certain territory, etc.).

Buying the rights outright are highly improbable unless you pay an enormous amount of money. That is, unless the work you want to use is by an obscure author, and the work is not very good...

marchermann
12-16-2004, 04:35 PM
If the work you want to base your project on is less than seventy years old It's seventy years after the death of the author, not after the creation of the work. Well, at least in Germany. Fot the US, I think it's the same for works created after 1978. Looking up the "Sony Bono Act" or "Mickey Mouse Act" in Google will provide for an interesting read on the subject of copyright duration.


the folks who have the rights to the work are very protective of every manifestation of the idea Actually, in Germany ideas cannot be protected, but only their manifestation in "works". If I told you at a party "Here's a great idea for a film..." and, a year later, saw that you made a film based on the idea - well, there's nothing I can do about it. I like this concept, because it protect those who do instead of those who just dream.

So Miguel could probably try and loosely base his own story on the idea (e.g. "teenagers getting killed by a psychopath...") but not copy the actual story (e.g. "there's this guy with a leather face and a chainsaw...").

Marc

whiterat
12-16-2004, 05:35 PM
Thanks to answer so fast and clear. A lot of light has been pour into my brain in regards of this matter.

This author died in the 70īs, so I will begin my search of the owners of the rights.

Already send a e-mail to the publishers, any other source you maybe be aware of?

Well, to my search go.....


marcboy , DigiLusionist: THANK YOU.


Miguel.

gga
12-16-2004, 09:48 PM
Miguel, my suggestion is to not bother with any published work. Particularly if it is British or from the U.S.
Unless you happen to stumble upon an author like Stephen King who is known to have given away some rights to some of his short stories for u$1 to film students, chances are the money you will need to secure the rights to the project is beyond your budget.
Publishers and agents will in general tend to ignore your letters, email, etc. unless they know you are a reputable source of income to them.

Theoretically, you can still create a film based on another work without asking the author for permission. Some (amateur) films have been made that way where the film is finished and only then the author is seeked for approval. Chances are that you will not be sued for doing so, as there would be little or no gain for the author. But still obtaining a clearance for your film should be a priority, as the author might still want to pursue you legally if he sees you butchered his work and your film becomes popular, thou.
Note, however, that even if nothing happens, not having the author's approval is still risky for your self-promotion. For one, no decent film festival or short film compilation will legally be able to exhibit your work unless you have a clearance from the author. So forget about winning any prizes for it. And, btw, this also goes for any MUSIC you use in the film.

My suggestion: create your own idea or license one from someone you can afford (try film students in your local university, or local Argentinian authors, etc). If no ideas, try asking your librarian or some knowledgeable book store owner if they know of any short piece that would perhaps make a good film. Also, people will be much more impressed if your piece is your original creation rather than an adaptation of a published work. As others have said, you can also use the author's work for inspiration, but not as a copy. For example, George Lucas created Star Wars after he was unsuccessful in securing the rights to Flash Gordon.

whiterat
12-17-2004, 02:43 PM
gga: You have been quite clear. I suppose that I must burn my brain and create some original idea. If the reality is that as you raise it, right now I am changing the course of my actions. I thank you for answer in such way, thank you very much and a question, you are from here, Argentina. I say, because Clemente. =)



Miguel

DigiLusionist
12-17-2004, 04:05 PM
marcboy> Yup seventy years after death. But if he wants to use a published work within seventy years of creation, he still has to secure the rights, right? No contradiction.

Sure in Germany there may be no copyright on ideas. But he was talking about doing something based on a published work, not an idea.

Either way, gga is giving good advice. It's best to do an original idea since Miguel probably doesn't have the deep pockets needed to secure rights for an existing work.

pollywoggles
12-17-2004, 09:34 PM
Hey,

Yeah, I've been wanting to do a H.P. Lovecraft story, so publishing copyright issues have been interesting to me as well. This graph at the University of North Carolina might be helpful: http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm

whiterat
12-18-2004, 08:53 PM
DigiLusionist: Yes, my pockets arenīt deep enough like I want to. But, some friends have friends in the world of storytelling, so I guess Iīll go that way. Maybe something come up.

pollywoggles: nice graph, interesting.

nemirc
12-19-2004, 02:21 AM
Hey,

Yeah, I've been wanting to do a H.P. Lovecraft story, so publishing copyright issues have been interesting to me as well. This graph at the University of North Carolina might be helpful: http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm
this rocks :buttrock:
so if the story was published before 1923 it means it is "in public domain" now :twisted:
you just made my day

Matty2Phatty
12-21-2004, 02:08 AM
You know, a little while back i had a project where i had to pick a book, find a scene that is described, and a character, and model them for a video game. I chose the book 'Ice Station' by Matthew Reilly, and e-mailed him about it. He wrote back saying, and i paraphrase .. "That's awesome man! here's my address, you should send me a DVD of your clip when it's done!"

Heh, so yeah.. it's worth contacting them at least.

nemirc
12-21-2004, 02:45 AM
"I see dead people" :D

sorry, I couldn't resist... :blush:

khan2025
12-21-2004, 01:31 PM
The Library of Congress has a rather informative article called 'How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work (http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ22.html)' up on its site.


- K

sundialsvc4
12-21-2004, 03:01 PM
I remember reading David Gerrold's autobiographical The Trouble With Tribbles (describing the travails of a screenwriter ...), when the research department at Desilu decided that his story might be in conflict with a similar story idea by Robert Heinlein.

Yes, they had an entire department that was paid to look at such things. And the entire project stopped dead in its tracks until Mr. Heinlein could be contacted and he pleasantly said (on the record) that no, he didn't think that there was any conflict, and yes, he'd love to see a finished copy of the script. I suppose they gave it to him embossed with gold lettering.

Copyright violation, or even the hint of it, is no laughing matter. Don't go there. You should exercise due diligence and you should keep written documentation, e.g. in the form of a diary, of exactly whom you contacted and when. Use the post, if possible, rather than e-mail, and keep a written file of all replies.

PaulNewman
12-28-2004, 01:36 PM
Copyright violation, or even the hint of it, is no laughing matter. Don't go there. You should exercise due diligence and you should keep written documentation, e.g. in the form of a diary, of exactly whom you contacted and when. Use the post, if possible, rather than e-mail, and keep a written file of all replies.
I second this comment. I'm in a situation where negotiations with the (well known and well published) author broke down after the author's intentions for my movie became painfully clear and impossible to live with, largely after she refused to offer rights to her work if a film writer / director is going to change anything (this is after a few years of working with her and writing the adaptation to her work and owning the option to her book). I told her that the fact remains that her story does inspire me and that I'll set out to write my own version of the basic concept, which fortunately is an actual historical story. However, she did tell me, in no uncertain terms, that I would need to get legal advice and make sure that my version does not infringe on her copyright. Now while developing my version, I have this legal cloud hanging over me - not nice at all. So I've decided to still pursue filming this historical event, but completely rewritten, steering away completely from her concept.

However, just the fact that she knows I have had this inspiration from her book and that I have had physical and email contact with this author, now places me at her mercy. All my correspondence with her may now potentially become evidence used against me in a court. It may be that my version does not resemble her's at all, but if my film is successful, she may try to pursue some profits in court. I have no desire to even get near a court, even if she's got nothing on me.

So it is good advice to always get things in writing and be careful with what is said. Especially if relationships do develop (this writer liked the idea of having a film made but later had strong ideas to market the rest of her trilogy based on the film's marketing exposure) never forget that it is all business and think well before you get yourself into something which you did not forsee.

This of course would not apply to a deceased author but perhaps to the current guardian of their estate.

And if you have limited funds for options and rights and licences, be careful about doing deals which places the original author in a position of great leverage. It could bring your project to a grinding halt after you've poured in years of your own effort, passion and funds.

If the rights cost money, then get the money, say as little as possible to the author, maximize the rights and your flexibility in terms of what you may or may not do with the material, various formats, marketing regions, etc. Ideally get legal assistance to get this deal done right. Only once you have that should you start spending effort with your screen adaptation.

If funds are an issue, I'd also say that you should develop an original concept and forget about an existing property.

Depending on your current jurisdiction, also consider forming legal entities like a company, trust, etc. to own the property rather than you personally. In that way you won't get wiped out in a court battle. There are also other advantages which an attorney may further highlight. Due diligence - most crucial.

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