PDA

View Full Version : Novel out of copyright


Hahnlove
10-21-2009, 06:59 AM
Just a question about copyright.

I have stumbled across an old book. It was first published in 1895.

The original author has obviously passed on. I heard that after 70 years its open to public domain?

I wrote a email to "Oxford World's Classics" who still publish the book. I asked them I would like to do a screenplay on it the simple response is below


"The title used to be in the Oxford Popular Fiction series before it
transferred to OWC. The novel is out of copyright, so there are no
restrictions as far as writing a screenplay is concerned."


So from this am I able to write and own the story rights? Anyh help would be appreciated.

Thanks

grant
10-21-2009, 02:55 PM
I believe the rule of thumb is that anything published before 1923 is currently always out of copyright and in the public domain. I know it's somewhere in the twenties though, so you're safe to adapt something written in the eighteen hundreds.

As far as your own copyright, you'll only own your unique creations, nothing in the original story. So if somehow the movie does get made, and it's going to be a hit, someone else like Asylum could make another adaptation as long as they didn't use your unique creations.

jcgary
10-21-2009, 03:40 PM
You're all good. Progress without fear of running afoul of anyone.

Fortean
10-21-2009, 09:38 PM
Just a question about copyright.

I have stumbled across an old book. It was first published in 1895.

The original author has obviously passed on. I heard that after 70 years its open to public domain?

I wrote a email to "Oxford World's Classics" who still publish the book. I asked them I would like to do a screenplay on it the simple response is below


"The title used to be in the Oxford Popular Fiction series before it
transferred to OWC. The novel is out of copyright, so there are no
restrictions as far as writing a screenplay is concerned."


So from this am I able to write and own the story rights? Anyh help would be appreciated.

Thanks

The term of copyright in some countries lasts for the life of the author plus seventy years. Thus, the copyright is determined, not by the novel`s publication date, but, rather, the death of its author.

For example, CÚcile Chaminade (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A9cile_Chaminade) wrote some wonderful music, (which I would have liked to use in a film). Her 5 Airs de Ballet were written in 1888. Chaminade died in 1944. The copyright on this music has not yet expired in some countries.

When did the author die? In some countries, copyright lasts life plus seventy years. In others, (such as Canada) life plus fifty years. In the States, the laws are strange. If a novel was published before 1923, its United States copyright has undoubtedly expired, (but could be revived if still copyrighted in the author's country).

Also, be cautious of derivative copyrights, (editing, translations, etc.); while a Jules Verne novel may be in the public domain, a translation into English might still be copyrighted.

Hahnlove
10-21-2009, 11:22 PM
Thanks for the advice,

The author was English, died in England in 1924. It's based somewhere along the lines of "Paradise Lost", by Milton. Marlowe's "Dr Faustus". Im am attempting to bring to light a new idea or understanding of good and evil which I think is ripe for the current climate we live in.

MontanaHans
10-23-2009, 08:11 PM
@Hahn: That sounds awesome! Good luck with this.

ComicBent
10-27-2009, 11:30 AM
Don't worry about Thomas Mann's Dr. Faustus. Mann did not magically acquire rights to this ancient story when he wrote that novel.

Ideas are not copyrightable anyway, just the expressed form of the idea. Beyond that, the situation becomes murky. If you send Script X with a very unique idea and twist to "Shlock R Us Production Company," and your script is rejected, but two years later the same unique concept is in a film by "Shlock R Us," then you are going to think you got ripped off. That is why companies make you sign a release; they do not want to be sued, with no protection, when you get mad later and claim, rightly or wrongly, that somebody stole your idea.

Even though ideas are not copyrightable, somebody cannot take your script, reject it, and then make essentially the same movie that your script would have been. And it is not always clear cut as to whether any theft really took place.

But these stories that have passed into the public domain are there to be used by anyone. How many times have we seen Romeo and Juliet? Shakespeare's version was not the original story; then West Side Story; then several Hollywood versions.

Fortean made a good point about translations. The translation has its own copyright. However, if you are just taking the general idea, and are not relying on a translation for specific words and phrases, you should be on solid ground. It is usually possible to find older translations, out of copyright, if you are going to need to reproduce specific wording.