View Full Version : Where do old screenplays go to die?
01-29-2010, 09:49 PM
When a screenwriter dies, does his family get his works automatically? Can the state ever get them? I know Blake Synder died recently (RIP), what happened to his materials? I know there are a lot of screenplays out there and was just curious where they go. I remember Albert Brooks saying if he wrote a script and then died, at least the script was out there forever.
01-30-2010, 12:27 AM
To that slushpile in the sky.
01-30-2010, 12:49 AM
I assume the rights to the writer's scripts are part of that writer's estate. The writer needs to have a will to designate who those rights are tranferred to. If a person dies without a will, it's handled differently in each state & country.
RE: Blake Snyder
I find it kinda odd that someone is still posting on his site. They aren't posting as Snyder, the postings are just general blurbs about the new book release, etc. I wonder if his relatives are behind this, or if he specifically asked for his site to remain open.
Copyrights on intillectual property like a screenplay have laws in place to deal with them, but what about sites and blogs? Who has the right to control a site after the originator has died?
01-30-2010, 07:53 PM
I'm sure my heirs would be even less enthusiastic about sending out queries than I am.
01-30-2010, 10:01 PM
Speaking from experience, the whole issue is a royal pain.
The heir finds the screenplay. The will doesn't stipulate 'all my intellectual property goes to XXX' , so what now? Does the screenplay get counted as contents of the home, which went to the son (because the copy of the screenplay was in the home) or 'everything else' which went to the daughter?
Even worse, let's assume that the house was sold and the value divided equally between the two.
Who got this particular script? Or was the IP in the script deemed to have sold with everything else in the estate sale .. so that the IP is now actually owned by some guy who has no idea he owns it ?
Lets say that everyone agrees that the IP in the script wasn't a content of the home - so the daughter owns it. Fine.
Now when you go to make the film, the E&O lawyers want to make sure that the daughter really do own the rights to the screenplay. That boils down to:
1. Did the old guy really write this script? (Let's assume this isn't a problem)
2. Did the old guy really leave the IP in his scripts to the daughter? (Let's assume that this has already been dealt)
3. Did the old guy allocate the rights to this particular script to anyone else before he died?
It's the third point that's impossible to prove. You could say that it's unlikely he did ... but there may have been some pretty binding verbal agreements with someone else you don't know about. And it's bad enough with a normal film with everyone suddenly deciding to sue because the think the film relates vaguely to a conversation you don't know about.
So dealing with a deceased writer just makes everything more difficult. Not impossible, of course, but more painful.
Imagine that there are a dozen potential projects hitting your inbox every day. There's one by this deceased writer that you really like ... but has all of these additional problems - which would you choose?
It is a crying shame, but it just ain't worth the hassle.
01-31-2010, 05:43 AM
to The Cemetery of Forgotten Screenplays
-- a homage to Carlos Ruiz Zafon and his brilliant book The Shadow of the Wind
01-31-2010, 08:35 AM
They go into the author's literary estate. Sometimes the family handles it, sometimes they hire someone who understands the business (another writer or an agent/manger), sometimes (tragically) they just let it go, occasionally they sell the literary estate to someone. As a publisher, I have bought a couple that way and try to keep that author's works alive.
In short, copyrights continue for, I believe, 75 years after the author's death (used to be 50). Dead people can make money, too. Ask Elvis.
01-31-2010, 03:39 PM
[quote=stvnlra;616136RE: Blake Snyder
I find it kinda odd that someone is still posting on his site. They aren't posting as Snyder, the postings are just general blurbs about the new book release, etc. I wonder if his relatives are behind this, or if he specifically asked for his site to remain open[/quote]
wasn't it Blake's wife who posted the original notice on the site he had passed? Perhaps she kept it going?
02-04-2010, 10:45 PM
Case in point: Bram Stoker.
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