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Old 03-03-2011, 07:42 PM   #1
tony6pack
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Default 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!
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Old 03-04-2011, 08:14 AM   #2
NikeeGoddess
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Default 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.
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Old 03-04-2011, 10:41 AM   #3
SoCalScribe
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Default Re: Question about copyright

Quote:
Originally Posted by tony6pack View Post
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.
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Old 03-04-2011, 11:46 AM   #4
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Default 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.
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Old 03-04-2011, 11:56 AM   #5
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Default Re: Question about copyright

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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.
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Old 03-04-2011, 02:36 PM   #6
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Default Re: Question about copyright

Thanks for your time SoCalScribe. Some good info - answers exactly what I was wondering.
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Old 03-04-2011, 04:11 PM   #7
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Default Re: Question about copyright

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Originally Posted by SoCalScribe View Post
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.
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Old 03-04-2011, 10:56 PM   #8
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Default Re: Question about copyright

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Originally Posted by SoCalScribe View Post
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.

Last edited by zz9 : 03-04-2011 at 11:09 PM.
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Old 03-04-2011, 11:58 PM   #9
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Default 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.
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Old 03-05-2011, 12:18 AM   #10
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Default Re: Question about copyright

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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?
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