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tony6pack 03-03-2011 06:42 PM

Question about copyright
 
Say you copyright a spec. It's 150 pages (this is a made up number) when you copyright it.

But then, down the road, you cut out 30 pages to get the size down.

You start sending your 120 page spec out - it gets sold. Your spec is now the property of a production company. They've only seen the 120 page version you sent them. When you sell it, you transfer the copyright into their name, right?

So who owns those 30 pages you cut out? What if I wanted to use those 30 pages in the future?

Can they somehow get a copy of the 150 page spec through the copyright office?

I assume they own everything at that point including the 150 page version they haven't seen. Would the production company even care about those extra pages?

Thanks!

NikeeGoddess 03-04-2011 07:14 AM

Re: Question about copyright
 
why would they want the crap that you cut?! i'm sure they'll cut more in the rewriting stage anyway since 120 pages is on the longish end.

SoCalScribe 03-04-2011 09:41 AM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by tony6pack (Post 728397)
Say you copyright a spec. It's 150 pages (this is a made up number) when you copyright it.

But then, down the road, you cut out 30 pages to get the size down.

You start sending your 120 page spec out - it gets sold. Your spec is now the property of a production company. They've only seen the 120 page version you sent them. When you sell it, you transfer the copyright into their name, right?

So who owns those 30 pages you cut out? What if I wanted to use those 30 pages in the future?

Can they somehow get a copy of the 150 page spec through the copyright office?

I assume they own everything at that point including the 150 page version they haven't seen. Would the production company even care about those extra pages?

Thanks!

The copyright establishes legal ownership of the version that's registered with the Copyright Office. You assign that copyright to a company who buys your script. Thus, the company becomes the owner of all 150 pages of the script, even if you cut 30 pages out before you sent it to them.

Copyright attaches to what you register. If you registered 150 pages, when you assign the copyright to a purchaser, you're assigning the copyright as is, not only a portion of it (like 120 of the 150 pages) just because you omitted some of it when you sent out your submissions.

Not to mention the fact that a purchase of a screenplay assigns all right, title and interest to the characters, settings, etc. It's not just the words on the page that they're acquiring. So even if you wanted those 30 pages for some reason, you wouldn't be able to legally use them without the purchaser's permission, unless you fundamentally changed the characters, the setting... everything. From an intellectual property standpoint, there would be no content left in those thirty pages that you could legally use without permission of the purchaser, who acquired the rights to your script and its content.

iDV8 03-04-2011 10:46 AM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Copy right the latest version before you sell it to the prodco. That way if there is some gem in those thirty pages you want to use elsewhere, it's not a part of what you gave the prodco. Problem solved.

SoCalScribe 03-04-2011 10:56 AM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by iDV8 (Post 728620)
Copy right the latest version before you sell it to the prodco. That way if there is some gem in those thirty pages you want to use elsewhere, it's not a part of what you gave the prodco. Problem solved.

That's not accurate. If it's part of the same body of work (i.e. same characters, settings, etc.) those intellectual property rights go to the company along with the script when you assign the copyright. When a company buys a script, they're not just buying the words on the page... they're buying the intellectual property (i.e. the ownership and right of control over everything in that material). Whether we're talking about these thirty pages, or a short story, or another script, or a sequel, or a novel... the right to create something based on these characters, settings, etc. are purchased by the company... which means the writer no longer has the right to create material based on this intellectual property without prior permission.

tony6pack 03-04-2011 01:36 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Thanks for your time SoCalScribe. Some good info - answers exactly what I was wondering.

iDV8 03-04-2011 03:11 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by SoCalScribe (Post 728626)
That's not accurate. If it's part of the same body of work (i.e. same characters, settings, etc.) those intellectual property rights go to the company along with the script when you assign the copyright. When a company buys a script, they're not just buying the words on the page... they're buying the intellectual property (i.e. the ownership and right of control over everything in that material). Whether we're talking about these thirty pages, or a short story, or another script, or a sequel, or a novel... the right to create something based on these characters, settings, etc. are purchased by the company... which means the writer no longer has the right to create material based on this intellectual property without prior permission.

I guess what I'm imagining in this scenario is if I chop 30 pages of scenes and dialogue and if its any good, I could recycle those scenes and dialogue in another script. First thought that comes to mind is the coat hanger gag in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg used it first in 1941 and decided to cut it because it didn't work, but it fit perfectly in Raiders. If I write a clever comedy and have to slash 30 pages of quippy dialogue and great ideas in scenes I could very easily use them in the future if I don't sell them. I understand what you mean about intellectual property SoCalScribe, but I'm wondering if he's just talking about some good ideas that can be used in other scripts.

zz9 03-04-2011 09:56 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by SoCalScribe (Post 728587)
The copyright establishes legal ownership of the version that's registered with the Copyright Office.

What if you haven't registered it? Registration isn't a requirement.

Or, since cutting thirty pages is a big change, you could re register and get a separate copyright to sell.

Obviously characters etc would be exclusive, but to use a scene you cut in a new script with totally different characters would be okay.

TheKeenGuy 03-04-2011 10:58 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
I'll drive myself crazy if I try to track down where I read this, but I recall a sold writer discussing how part of the script sale often involves the studio acquiring the rights to all drafts of a screenplay that have been written, not just the final draft.

zz9 03-04-2011 11:18 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 728897)
I'll drive myself crazy if I try to track down where I read this, but I recall a sold writer discussing how part of the script sale often involves the studio acquiring the rights to all drafts of a screenplay that have been written, not just the final draft.

That may be common practice but surely would be subject to negotiation. Someone making their first sale might have to agree but a successful writer selling a hot script could say no.

And, to put it bluntly, how would they know? If you haven't registered, or only registered the final draft, how would they ever know you re used a scene discarded from an earlier draft?
And even if you did reuse a scene simply changing the characters and rewriting it would mean it was a new work anyway. Unless it was word for word identical how could it be an infringement?

If I sell a script where I had deleted a scene with a guy robbing a bank does that mean I can never write another script ever with a guy robbing a bank?

TheKeenGuy 03-04-2011 11:47 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 728901)
That may be common practice but surely would be subject to negotiation. Someone making their first sale might have to agree but a successful writer selling a hot script could say no.

What are you basing this on? Just on theory?

I can understand your "how would they know?" thing, but doing a little searching, I've found so far that "all drafts, revisions, etc." is commonly included in the copyright assignment of screenplay deals.

The notion that a "successful writer" would balk at that, or that a studio would cede to such a bizarre demand, seems counter-intuitive to me.

SoCalScribe 03-05-2011 10:35 AM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 728886)
What if you haven't registered it? Registration isn't a requirement.

Or, since cutting thirty pages is a big change, you could re register and get a separate copyright to sell.

Obviously characters etc would be exclusive, but to use a scene you cut in a new script with totally different characters would be okay.

If a screenplay copyright has not previously been registered, it will be, in order for the studio to assert its ownership. The two scenarios I've seen are where the studio asks the writer to register it with the Copyright Office so they have a registration on file that can be assigned over... or the studio registers the copyright itself and - since they're the first registrant of the work - they become the owner pursuant to the writing agreement.

It doesn't matter if you re-register. Option/purchase agreements for screenplays include all right, title and interest to the property. If you registered a hundred different versions with the copyright office, they would ALL be part of the acquisition by the studio. Studio's don't like to leave loose ends on the chain of title (like a version of the material they don't own).


Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 728897)
I'll drive myself crazy if I try to track down where I read this, but I recall a sold writer discussing how part of the script sale often involves the studio acquiring the rights to all drafts of a screenplay that have been written, not just the final draft.

True. I mean, they're not going to go back and say, "Send me your first draft," but if you've done substantive rewrites and have more than one version of a polished product... they're going to want the rights to all of them. After all, they own the property, not just the words on the page.


Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 728901)
That may be common practice but surely would be subject to negotiation. Someone making their first sale might have to agree but a successful writer selling a hot script could say no.

And, to put it bluntly, how would they know? If you haven't registered, or only registered the final draft, how would they ever know you re used a scene discarded from an earlier draft?
And even if you did reuse a scene simply changing the characters and rewriting it would mean it was a new work anyway. Unless it was word for word identical how could it be an infringement?

If I sell a script where I had deleted a scene with a guy robbing a bank does that mean I can never write another script ever with a guy robbing a bank?

No, it's not subject to negotiation. When you sell a screenplay, you sell ALL of it; all right, title and interest to the property. It's non-negotiable. Studios can't perfect a chain of title for the project (which is required to release a movie) if there is a hole in the rights to the property - like the kind you'd have if they didn't own a draft or a mysterious missing thirty pages of a script. It just doesn't happen that way.

There are two things I'd like to point out about the second part of your post. The first is that a scene of a bank robbery (generally) isn't something you can copyright. It's not like if you sell a script with a bank robbery, you can never write another bank robbery again. Copyright protects the execution of the idea, which means you would only be stopped from writing about a bank robbery in the way the characters robbed it, as written in your first script. There's nothing wrong (or that infringes on copyright) if you later write a new scene about a bank robbery that's carried out in a different way by different characters.

Secondly, the comment, "Who's really going to know [if you do use those pages]" is something that I have to strongly caution you don't follow. In every option/purchase agreement, there is a Representations & Warranties section where the writer sells the work and receives the payment contingent upon the acknowledgement that the work is 100% their own, they don't owe anybody money for anything, the work hasn't been sold anywhere else, etc. etc. etc. If you were to sell the script to Studio A (which, if you look at any standard writer agreement, includes the acquisition of all right, title, and interest to the property), and then were to lift a scene (unused or not) from that script and put it into a script that was sold to Studio B, it would be a violation of your reps and warranties, and would put you in material breach of your agreement with BOTH studios, which would allow them BOTH to sue you for any and all damages - including development costs on a movie they can no longer legally release on their own. This could amount to MILLIONS of dollars in damages.

Is there a chance they'd never find out? I suppose so. But that's not exactly a legal defense... and are you willing to bet millions of dollars and your professional reputation that not one of the hundreds of studio employees or millions of audience members will make that connection?

Suggesting that someone do something illegal (and yes, what's being proposed is illegal under copyright law) based on the "how would they ever find out" justification, IMO, is incredibly irresponsible.

I know your post was based on the fact that a writer DIDN'T register a version first (in which case, you're right... no one would have any way of knowing what you revised from earlier drafts unless there's a paper trail or you sent that earlier version to someone and it's documented)... but the OP's question was about what happens when you register a script, then cut it, then sell that cut version. I just want to make sure it's absolutely clear that in THAT circumstance, saying "how will they know" for those edited 30 pages is a big deal. ;)

ComicBent 03-05-2011 11:22 AM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

I recall a sold writer discussing how part of the script sale often involves the studio acquiring the rights to all drafts of a screenplay that have been written, not just the final draft.
As I always say, not a week goes by that I don't wish I were a lawyer.

So the following is just commonsense advice.

The point of claiming all drafts is to prevent claims by the author that he/she still owns a different version of the script as reflected in this slightly different version, or that heavily different version (but still clearly the same characters with the same dialogue in extensive passages). The point is not to root out every idea that you may have attached to the script in the course of creating it.

If you chop out a sequence from a script before you copyright it, you can use the sequence in a different work as long as the sequence is not a derivative work. Only the copyright owner has the right to create derivative works (think of MOVIE II, III, etc.), novelizations of films, TV shows based on films. Obviously you could have events and scenes that do not depend on the original work; they can exist independently of the original. You can cut these out and use them with different characters. Make sure that none of the extensive and significant dialogue is duplicated somewhere in the original (unlikely, but who knows?).

And do not copyright the work until you have removed everything that you want to save for use in a different work.

zz9 03-05-2011 11:55 AM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ComicBent (Post 729067)

If you chop out a sequence from a script before you copyright it, you can use the sequence in a different work as long as the sequence is not a derivative work. Only the copyright owner has the right to create derivative works (think of MOVIE II, III, etc.), novelizations of films, TV shows based on films. Obviously you could have events and scenes that do not depend on the original work; they can exist independently of the original. You can cut these out and use them with different characters. Make sure that none of the extensive and significant dialogue is duplicated somewhere in the original (unlikely, but who knows?).

This is what I was suggesting. If the scene was "guy robs a bank and finds it was closed down and turned into a Starbucks a week earlier" and you ended up cutting it you could use that same idea in a later script with no problem, as long as the characters are not the same. It would be very unlikely that you would copy it word for word since merely fitting it into the new script would call for changes that would qualify it as a new work. The idea is so broad that it itself could not be copyrighted.

zz9 03-05-2011 12:01 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by SoCalScribe (Post 729059)
If a screenplay copyright has not previously been registered, it will be, in order for the studio to assert its ownership. The two scenarios I've seen are where the studio asks the writer to register it with the Copyright Office so they have a registration on file that can be assigned over... or the studio registers the copyright itself and - since they're the first registrant of the work - they become the owner pursuant to the writing agreement.

It doesn't matter if you re-register. Option/purchase agreements for screenplays include all right, title and interest to the property. If you registered a hundred different versions with the copyright office, they would ALL be part of the acquisition by the studio. Studio's don't like to leave loose ends on the chain of title (like a version of the material they don't own).




True. I mean, they're not going to go back and say, "Send me your first draft," but if you've done substantive rewrites and have more than one version of a polished product... they're going to want the rights to all of them. After all, they own the property, not just the words on the page.




No, it's not subject to negotiation. When you sell a screenplay, you sell ALL of it; all right, title and interest to the property. It's non-negotiable. Studios can't perfect a chain of title for the project (which is required to release a movie) if there is a hole in the rights to the property - like the kind you'd have if they didn't own a draft or a mysterious missing thirty pages of a script. It just doesn't happen that way.

There are two things I'd like to point out about the second part of your post. The first is that a scene of a bank robbery (generally) isn't something you can copyright. It's not like if you sell a script with a bank robbery, you can never write another bank robbery again. Copyright protects the execution of the idea, which means you would only be stopped from writing about a bank robbery in the way the characters robbed it, as written in your first script. There's nothing wrong (or that infringes on copyright) if you later write a new scene about a bank robbery that's carried out in a different way by different characters.

Secondly, the comment, "Who's really going to know [if you do use those pages]" is something that I have to strongly caution you don't follow. In every option/purchase agreement, there is a Representations & Warranties section where the writer sells the work and receives the payment contingent upon the acknowledgement that the work is 100% their own, they don't owe anybody money for anything, the work hasn't been sold anywhere else, etc. etc. etc. If you were to sell the script to Studio A (which, if you look at any standard writer agreement, includes the acquisition of all right, title, and interest to the property), and then were to lift a scene (unused or not) from that script and put it into a script that was sold to Studio B, it would be a violation of your reps and warranties, and would put you in material breach of your agreement with BOTH studios, which would allow them BOTH to sue you for any and all damages - including development costs on a movie they can no longer legally release on their own. This could amount to MILLIONS of dollars in damages.

Is there a chance they'd never find out? I suppose so. But that's not exactly a legal defense... and are you willing to bet millions of dollars and your professional reputation that not one of the hundreds of studio employees or millions of audience members will make that connection?

Suggesting that someone do something illegal (and yes, what's being proposed is illegal under copyright law) based on the "how would they ever find out" justification, IMO, is incredibly irresponsible.

I know your post was based on the fact that a writer DIDN'T register a version first (in which case, you're right... no one would have any way of knowing what you revised from earlier drafts unless there's a paper trail or you sent that earlier version to someone and it's documented)... but the OP's question was about what happens when you register a script, then cut it, then sell that cut version. I just want to make sure it's absolutely clear that in THAT circumstance, saying "how will they know" for those edited 30 pages is a big deal. ;)

A few comments. For one I would not suggest trying to con a studio that has bought your script. I was asking "How would they know if you had re used an idea, not characters or cut'n'paste scenes, but an idea like my "bank robber robs a Starbucks" idea above from an earlier script. The idea is so broad that it would not be copyrightable in any way. Could a studio take action on such a broad idea?

Secondly everything is negotiable. Many studios have made movies where rights are split, the James Bond franchise for one. If JK Rowling had offered a studio her script for Harry Potter but said "I want to keep the character rights" the studio would have come to an agreement. With Joe Newbie Writer, no way.

zz9 03-05-2011 12:21 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 728906)
What are you basing this on? Just on theory?

I can understand your "how would they know?" thing, but doing a little searching, I've found so far that "all drafts, revisions, etc." is commonly included in the copyright assignment of screenplay deals.

The notion that a "successful writer" would balk at that, or that a studio would cede to such a bizarre demand, seems counter-intuitive to me.

A novelist can sell the movie rights to one book in a series, keeping the rights to the characters to himself. If that novelist wrote a script of one of his books he would not agree to hand over the entire rights for one script sale.

Presumably your searching would be the standard terms of a studio. How would you know if and when any specific contract had altered terms unless you had access to that specific contract?

zz9 03-05-2011 12:30 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 728906)
What are you basing this on? Just on theory?

I can understand your "how would they know?" thing, but doing a little searching, I've found so far that "all drafts, revisions, etc." is commonly included in the copyright assignment of screenplay deals.

The notion that a "successful writer" would balk at that, or that a studio would cede to such a bizarre demand, seems counter-intuitive to me.


I've thought of an example. George Lucas wrote Star Wars as one, single, script before deciding it was too big and splitting it into three.

Yet he sold the rights to only Episode 4 to Fox. He kept ownership to the other two and made them himself.

"Draft 1" would have been a script for the entire original trilogy, but Fox only bought a later, revised, script that was only a part of the original.

TheKeenGuy 03-05-2011 12:41 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 729081)
A few comments. For one I would not suggest trying to con a studio that has bought your script. I was asking "How would they know if you had re used an idea, not characters or cut'n'paste scenes, but an idea like my "bank robber robs a Starbucks" idea above from an earlier script. The idea is so broad that it would not be copyrightable in any way. Could a studio take action on such a broad idea?

I think the relevant question is "would they take action?" more than "could they?" I don't think either of us think they would when it comes to vague similarities to unused material in previous drafts.

Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 729091)
A novelist can sell the movie rights to one book in a series, keeping the rights to the characters to himself. If that novelist wrote a script of one of his books he would not agree to hand over the entire rights for one script sale.

I recall reading about how it was the "original sin" that when the WGA formed, one of the first concessions they made was the assigning over of all rights when a screenplay is sold.

I know George Lucas took a huge cut in pay to maintain the rights to STAR WARS film that aren't usually retained, which was of course a huge mistake on the part of Fox.

In large part because of that, I doubt you'll find a contemporary analog (rather than just theorizing about it). If you can, let me know.

zz9 03-05-2011 01:48 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 729099)
In large part because of that, I doubt you'll find a contemporary analog (rather than just theorizing about it). If you can, let me know.

A specific actual proven example is not "theorizing about it". It clearly happened after the WGA agreement you mentioned.

It showed they could agree to such a concession when they thought it benefited them. As you say they will be far less willing today, but if JR Rowling offered them a new idea but wanted concessions from their standard contract, they'd listen and they'd deal.

Any clause in any contract can be negotiated. You just need to give them a good reason to do so. Same with profit participation. We all know those profits will never materialize but people like Schartzenegger at his peak could get them to agree to a cut of the box office. They agreed to change their standard contract, and in a big way, because they thought it was worth it.

zz9 03-05-2011 02:18 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Another case that had been floating around in my head, and I managed to remember it.

From Wikipedia on Pulp Fiction:

Tarantino went to work on the script for Pulp Fiction in Amsterdam in March 1992.[17] He was joined there by Avary, who contributed "Pandemonium Reigns" to the project and participated in its rewriting as well as the development of the new storylines that would link up with it.[13] Two scenes originally written by Avary for the True Romance screenplay, exclusively credited to Tarantino, were incorporated into the opening of "The Bonnie Situation": the "miraculous" missed shots by the hidden gunman and the rear seat automobile killing.

Both different prod co's.

This seems to be the exact case the OP is wondering about. A writer wrote some scenes for a script he sold but then re using them in a totally different script.

TheKeenGuy 03-05-2011 08:17 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 729117)
A specific actual proven example is not "theorizing about it". It clearly happened after the WGA agreement you mentioned.

It showed they could agree to such a concession when they thought it benefited them. As you say they will be far less willing today, but if JR Rowling offered them a new idea but wanted concessions from their standard contract, they'd listen and they'd deal.

Any clause in any contract can be negotiated. You just need to give them a good reason to do so. Same with profit participation. We all know those profits will never materialize but people like Schartzenegger at his peak could get them to agree to a cut of the box office. They agreed to change their standard contract, and in a big way, because they thought it was worth it.

Again, a difference between "could that happen" and "would that happen." Hypothetically, a writer could sell a script to a studio for 51% of their stock. Would that happen? No.

Would a situation analogous to the George Lucas/STAR WARS deal occur again? I doubt that has happened often, if at all, with original properties since the ramifications of that deal became apparent (remember, STAR WARS contributed in many ways to changing the movie industry as we know it). But again, if you can find recent examples, please provide them.

SoCalScribe 03-05-2011 11:43 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 729081)
A few comments. For one I would not suggest trying to con a studio that has bought your script. I was asking "How would they know if you had re used an idea, not characters or cut'n'paste scenes, but an idea like my "bank robber robs a Starbucks" idea above from an earlier script. The idea is so broad that it would not be copyrightable in any way. Could a studio take action on such a broad idea?

Secondly everything is negotiable. Many studios have made movies where rights are split, the James Bond franchise for one. If JK Rowling had offered a studio her script for Harry Potter but said "I want to keep the character rights" the studio would have come to an agreement. With Joe Newbie Writer, no way.

If there's one thing the U.S. legal system has taught us, someone can take action on anything they want. You don't have to be right to sue someone. ;) But ideas can't be copyrighted. A studio isn't likely to take action against you if they're not really sure they can win (or at least achieve a specific objective).

And yes, studios have made movies where the rights are not a straight and total acquisition by a studio... split among varied interests for franchise properties (like James Bond) or when they're licensed for motion picture rights in the case of extremely famous literary properties like HARRY POTTER or THE DA VINCI CODE. But those are exceptional circumstances... and all were based on successful properties that previously existed in other media, where the concern was the studio acquiring all right, title and interest to a property that had an existing revenue stream in another form. In my years in this business, I'm not aware of any screenwriter (famous or newbie) who has sold an original screenplay and been able to withhold material rights from the studio.

SoCalScribe 03-05-2011 11:53 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 729099)
I know George Lucas took a huge cut in pay to maintain the rights to STAR WARS film that aren't usually retained, which was of course a huge mistake on the part of Fox.

In large part because of that, I doubt you'll find a contemporary analog (rather than just theorizing about it). If you can, let me know.

George Lucas was also a producer and director on STAR WARS, and his company was the production company... which is a significantly different dynamic than a screenwriter selling an original screenplay to a studio for development/production. ;)

zz9 03-06-2011 08:48 AM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by SoCalScribe (Post 729248)
In my years in this business, I'm not aware of any screenwriter (famous or newbie) who has sold an original screenplay and been able to withhold material rights from the studio.

The True Romance scenes used in Pulp Fiction example? That would seem to be exactly what the OP was asking about.

TheKeenGuy 03-06-2011 10:25 AM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 729308)
The True Romance scenes used in Pulp Fiction example? That would seem to be exactly what the OP was asking about.

Most likely, either it wasn't seen as a copyright violation, or the copyright holder didn't care.

The scenario that you're painting, that this may have been because rights were withheld during the contract negotiations, isn't plausible.

zz9 03-06-2011 11:56 AM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 729349)
Most likely, either it wasn't seen as a copyright violation, or the copyright holder didn't care.

The scenario that you're painting, that this may have been because rights were withheld during the contract negotiations, isn't plausible.

Since True Romance only made $12m and Pulp Fiction has taken well over $200m at the box office and probably the same again on DVD I think it would be very strange if the producers of True Romance "didn't care" that work they owned had been used in a hugely profitable film.


Whether he specifically negotiated to keep those rights or whether they simply were not in the script he sold, or whether they were rewritten enough to be considered new, one way or another he did exactly what the OP is talking about doing.

SoCalScribe 03-06-2011 12:15 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 729400)
Whether he specifically negotiated to keep those rights or whether they simply were not in the script he sold, or whether they were rewritten enough to be considered new, one way or another he did exactly what the OP is talking about doing.

If you have a copy of a contract where a screenwriter was successfully able to withhold material rights from a straight screenplay sale, I'd love to see that agreement and I'll happily admit I was wrong. I've worked in business & legal affairs in the industry for years, and I've never seen the studio give that. So I'm genuinely curious if you have some proof of your first example (i.e. a screenwriter successfully negotiating to keep material rights on his side of the table), or if you're just citing movies and don't actually have the contracts to know for sure.

I don't mean any offense by that, it's just that you're arguing pretty strongly in favor of a screenwriter - at some point in their career - being able to walk into a studio and say, "I'm going to keep these material rights to the characters, etc." and the studio agreeing to that. I have yet to see a studio agree to that, so if you have concrete evidence to the contrary, I'm happy to be proven wrong.

zz9 03-06-2011 12:43 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by SoCalScribe (Post 729407)
If you have a copy of a contract where a screenwriter was successfully able to withhold material rights from a straight screenplay sale, I'd love to see that agreement and I'll happily admit I was wrong. I've worked in business & legal affairs in the industry for years, and I've never seen the studio give that. So I'm genuinely curious if you have some proof of your first example (i.e. a screenwriter successfully negotiating to keep material rights on his side of the table), or if you're just citing movies and don't actually have the contracts to know for sure.

I don't mean any offense by that, it's just that you're arguing pretty strongly in favor of a screenwriter - at some point in their career - being able to walk into a studio and say, "I'm going to keep these material rights to the characters, etc." and the studio agreeing to that. I have yet to see a studio agree to that, so if you have concrete evidence to the contrary, I'm happy to be proven wrong.

Isn't that exactly what happened with Star Wars? The "all drafts" clause would clearly have included the sequel rights and yet the studio agreed to let him keep those rights, either on signing the contract or later.

Lucas was the screenwriter. He kept the sequel rights, the plot of which were in early drafts of the Star Wars script.

You can argue that "It wouldn't happen now", but it clearly happened then.

TheKeenGuy 03-06-2011 12:56 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 729413)
Isn't that exactly what happened with Star Wars? The "all drafts" clause would clearly have included the sequel rights and yet the studio agreed to let him keep those rights, either on signing the contract or later.

Lucas was the screenwriter. He kept the sequel rights, the plot of which were in early drafts of the Star Wars script.

You can argue that "It wouldn't happen now", but it clearly happened then.

Yes, the Lucas example is a reason why it's incredibly less likely to occur now. So please provide a modern example, because without that, the case you're making is at a dead end.

zz9 03-06-2011 01:05 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 729416)
Yes, the Lucas example is a reason why it's incredibly less likely to occur now. So please provide a modern example, because without that, the case you're making is at a dead end.

You said you had "never" seen a studio do that. I posted an example.

I also posted the far more modern True Romance example which is exactly what the OP was asking about and clearly, somehow, they managed to do that without the TR producers suing.

Also, I never suggested a writer asking to keep rights to characters, sequel rights etc. (though Lucas managed that) We are talking about the True Romance/Pulp Fiction scenario where a writer wants to reuse scenes that he has taken out of a script he sells. That example, if true (and I've seen it elsewhere) proves it can be done.

TheKeenGuy 03-06-2011 01:40 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 729417)
You said you had "never" seen a studio do that. I posted an example.

I also posted the far more modern True Romance example which is exactly what the OP was asking about and clearly, somehow, they managed to do that without the TR producers suing.

Also, I never suggested a writer asking to keep rights to characters, sequel rights etc. (though Lucas managed that) We are talking about the True Romance/Pulp Fiction scenario where a writer wants to reuse scenes that he has taken out of a script he sells. That example, if true (and I've seen it elsewhere) proves it can be done.

"You said you had "never" seen a studio do that." No I did not.

Please re-read my posts. I said that selling all drafts occurs "often" and "commonly," and I provided the only example I could think of where a filmmaker successfully withheld certain rights, which has likely rarely occurred since then in large part because of that.

So please do not create straw man arguments.

As I stated earlier, I don't believe either of us think that copyright lawsuits will result from vague similarities to unused material in previous drafts of sold scripts, such as the case with TRUE ROMANCE/PULP FICTION.

The plausible explanation for this is that it's likely not considered a copyright violation, or a violation worth pursuing in court.

Your explanation, that this is somehow tied to writers withholding the rights to certain material in certain drafts during contract negotiations, is not plausible, and has not been supported by any evidence.

That's not to say it cannot happen, just that it's not likely that the answer to the OP's question has anything to do with your theory about Tarantino/Avary and other writers carving out exceptions to the common contract stipulation of selling all drafts/revisions to the buyer.

But again, if you have evidence of things like that happening with any level of frequency in recent years, please provide it.

zz9 03-06-2011 02:15 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 729425)
"You said you had "never" seen a studio do that." No I did not.

Please re-read my posts. I said that selling all drafts occurs "often" and "commonly," and I provided the only example I could think of where a filmmaker successfully withheld certain rights, which has likely rarely occurred since then in large part because of that.

So please do not create straw man arguments.

As I stated earlier, I don't believe either of us think that copyright lawsuits will result from vague similarities to unused material in previous drafts of sold scripts, such as the case with TRUE ROMANCE/PULP FICTION.

The plausible explanation for this is that it's likely not considered a copyright violation, or a violation worth pursuing in court.

Your explanation, that this is somehow tied to writers withholding the rights to certain material in certain drafts during contract negotiations, is not plausible, and has not been supported by any evidence.

That's not to say it cannot happen, just that it's not likely that the answer to the OP's question has anything to do with your theory about Tarantino/Avary and other writers carving out exceptions to the common contract stipulation of selling all drafts/revisions to the buyer.

But again, if you have evidence of things like that happening with any level of frequency in recent years, please provide it.

Surely if the studio buying the rights to all drafts happens "often" and "commonly" then that implies that it does not happen in every case? So it would be something up for negotiation? Otherwise it would happen in "every" case.

What case did you provide? I was the one who bought up Star Wars.

And you did say you had "never seen a studio do that"

You said "If you have a copy of a contract where a screenwriter was successfully able to withhold material rights from a straight screenplay sale, I'd love to see that agreement and I'll happily admit I was wrong. I've worked in business & legal affairs in the industry for years, and I've never seen the studio give that" which is exactly what happened with Lucas and Star Wars. And somehow Tarrentino and Averey managed to be able to reuese scenes, and publicly admit to doing so, without any action from the people who, in theory, owned those rights.

Either they did manage to retain the rights to those scenes or those producers simply decided not to bother suing over their property being used in a hugely profitable movie, deeply implausible in itself . Whether they retained them because they negotiated them, or because they were simply not included in the draft they sold or whether simple changing the names and rewriting them made them different enough I suspect we'll never know.

(Remember I'm not talking about character rights, although Lucas managed that. Just material, generic scenes with character names changed, from earlier drafts that were not in the version seen and bought by a studio.)

But the fact is that they clearly bought a script without getting the right to those scenes and the writer used them again in another script. Which is what the OP asked.

TheKeenGuy 03-06-2011 02:47 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by zz9 (Post 729438)
Surely if the studio buying the rights to all drafts happens "often" and "commonly" then that implies that it does not happen in every case? So it would be something up for negotiation? Otherwise it would happen in "every" case.

What case did you provide? I was the one who bought up Star Wars.

And you did say you had "never seen a studio do that"

You said "If you have a copy of a contract where a screenwriter was successfully able to withhold material rights from a straight screenplay sale, I'd love to see that agreement and I'll happily admit I was wrong. I've worked in business & legal affairs in the industry for years, and I've never seen the studio give that" which is exactly what happened with Lucas and Star Wars. And somehow Tarrentino and Averey managed to be able to reuese scenes, and publicly admit to doing so, without any action from the people who, in theory, owned those rights.

Either they did manage to retain the rights to those scenes or those producers simply decided not to bother suing over their property being used in a hugely profitable movie, deeply implausible in itself . Whether they retained them because they negotiated them, or because they were simply not included in the draft they sold or whether simple changing the names and rewriting them made them different enough I suspect we'll never know.

(Remember I'm not talking about character rights, although Lucas managed that. Just material, generic scenes with character names changed, from earlier drafts that were not in the version seen and bought by a studio.)

But the fact is that they clearly bought a script without getting the right to those scenes and the writer used them again in another script. Which is what the OP asked.

First, you are quoting someone else and mistakenly attributing it to me.

Second, over and over again, you are creating a false dichotomy. "Either they did manage to retain the rights to those scenes or those producers simply decided not to bother suing over their property being used in a hugely profitable movie, deeply implausible in itself."

You believe that it's "deeply implausible" that a studio would "simply decide not to bother suing" and have therefore come to the conclusion, citing only a 35 year-old deal that was deemed a monumentally bad decision, that the most likely explanation is that writers carve out exceptions to the common "all drafts/revisions" clause, when the more likely scenario is that these "generic scenes" (as you put it) are not considered copyright violations, or violations worth pursuing for practical legal or business reasons.

So, for at least the fourth time, provide evidence of writers carving out exceptions to the "all drafts/revisions" stipulations of contracts in recent years. If you don't want to or aren't able to, then there's no point in going round and round about it any longer.

zz9 03-06-2011 04:11 PM

Re: Question about copyright
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by TheKeenGuy (Post 729446)
First, you are quoting someone else and mistakenly attributing it to me.

Second, over and over again, you are creating a false dichotomy. "Either they did manage to retain the rights to those scenes or those producers simply decided not to bother suing over their property being used in a hugely profitable movie, deeply implausible in itself."

You believe that it's "deeply implausible" that a studio would "simply decide not to bother suing" and have therefore come to the conclusion, citing only a 35 year-old deal that was deemed a monumentally bad decision, that the most likely explanation is that writers carve out exceptions to the common "all drafts/revisions" clause, when the more likely scenario is that these "generic scenes" (as you put it) are not considered copyright violations, or violations worth pursuing for practical legal or business reasons.

So, for at least the fourth time, provide evidence of writers carving out exceptions to the "all drafts/revisions" stipulations of contracts in recent years. If you don't want to or aren't able to, then there's no point in going round and round about it any longer.

My mistake, I did quote SoCalScribe instead of you. My bad.

And I think we're arguing when we're more or less on the same page here. I myself said that generic scenes, even when similar to earlier ones, are not copyright violations. As I said on the first page "If I sell a script where I had deleted a scene with a guy robbing a bank does that mean I can never write another script ever with a guy robbing a bank?"

I did not say the only explanation was that they managed to negotiate keeping those rights. I said "Whether they retained them because they negotiated them, or because they were simply not included in the draft they sold or whether simple changing the names and rewriting them made them different enough I suspect we'll never know."
The point I was trying to argue was the suggestion that any scene being in any draft of a sold script automatically prevented a writer from ever using that scene again without "fundamental" changes which some people in this thread have suggested.

When Tarrantino and Averey can openly talk about reusing specific scenes in a later movie, the exact thing the OP was asking about and the exact thing that some posters here have said is impossible, then clearly that suggests very strongly they are wrong.


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