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Old 08-22-2012, 05:35 PM   #1
stainjm
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Default Novel/ Screenplay - keeping ownership of the other

IF I sell a novel or screenplay, am I able to get it in my contract that I maintain the rights to do the other?

Meaning:

1) If I get a novel published and have written the screenplay, can I have it in there that I can still put the screenplay out there/ try to sell it?
2) If a company wants to option one of my scripts and I have written the novel but not published it, can I get it in my contract that novel rights are mine, and then still try to shop it around?

Just trying to get a realistic feel for what it's like when I reach that point. I try to do both for most of my concepts (helps catch errors and really flesh out concepts).
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Old 08-22-2012, 07:52 PM   #2
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Default Re: Novel/ Screenplay - keeping ownership of the other

I just did this. (In July.) I sold my novel but my agent negotiated that I keep all screen rights. It was a deal breaker for me, though the House was fine with it. It's not a high concept story, and they don't worry too much about screen rights a lot of the time.

But I think that would depend on who you sign with. I've been picked up by Random House Australia, which is part of the Random House Group, exclusively a publishing house. A multi-media corporate might have a different attitude. Just be prepared to give something up if you meet resistance. Or fight for it and give nothing up. But usually there's some trade off.

I don't know if it works as easily the other way around - script to novel. My feeling is that people will still see the movie if they've read the book. Often because they've read the book. But I'm not sure people who see the movie are as keen to read the book after the fact. When they know how it ends.

No evidence to back this up, just an observation.
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Old 08-22-2012, 07:57 PM   #3
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Default Re: Novel/ Screenplay - keeping ownership of the other

It's not a question of it being in "there". Once your story is fixed in a tangible medium of expression i.e. once you've written it down somewhere, you own everything. Automatically. Novelizations, comic books, action figures, everything.

The only way this changes is if the person who's paying you for it takes the positive step of buying more from you.
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Old 08-22-2012, 10:14 PM   #4
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Default Re: Novel/ Screenplay - keeping ownership of the other

Congratulations, nic.h!

Like you, I am having a novel published (released this Halloween). It is in my contract that the publisher just has the novel rights, not any television or film rights.

Last edited by mswriterj : 08-23-2012 at 09:04 AM. Reason: left out a word
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Old 08-22-2012, 11:19 PM   #5
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Default Re: Novel/ Screenplay - keeping ownership of the other

Nice!!
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Old 08-22-2012, 11:23 PM   #6
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Default Re: Novel/ Screenplay - keeping ownership of the other

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Originally Posted by stainjm View Post
IF I sell a novel or screenplay, am I able to get it in my contract that I maintain the rights to do the other?
Of course you are. The only rights you lose are the ones you agree to sell. However, when you sell a novel it's easier to keep all the other rights than when selling a screenplay, where the studio will often insist on owning a number of specific ancillary rights. Having said that, when you sell a script there are still a number of rights which are easy to retain such as novelization. Making sure these things are handled correctly is why you will always engage an entertainment attorney before signing a contract.
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Old 08-22-2012, 11:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: Novel/ Screenplay - keeping ownership of the other

Thank you!
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Old 08-23-2012, 12:40 AM   #8
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Default Re: Novel/ Screenplay - keeping ownership of the other

Quote:
Originally Posted by stainjm View Post
IF I sell a novel or screenplay, am I able to get it in my contract that I maintain the rights to do the other?

Meaning:

1) If I get a novel published and have written the screenplay, can I have it in there that I can still put the screenplay out there/ try to sell it?
2) If a company wants to option one of my scripts and I have written the novel but not published it, can I get it in my contract that novel rights are mine, and then still try to shop it around?

Just trying to get a realistic feel for what it's like when I reach that point. I try to do both for most of my concepts (helps catch errors and really flesh out concepts).
Everything's negotiable in a contract, as long as you can get the other party to agree to it. With your first scenario, my understanding - someone please correct me if I'm wrong - is that authors retain the copyright and a publishing house will license the publishing rights so they can put the book out. The author thus retains all the other rights (like motion picture, stage, etc.) to the work. In the second scenario, it's a little trickier because production companies purchase the copyright and instead leave *you* with certain carve-outs and separated rights (like those granted in the WGA MBA). One of the rights the production company usually tries to hold onto are the novelization rights... and if you haven't published your novel yet, they may not be inclined to give you those rights since that's a potential revenue stream for them. Then again, if they like your work and you have a finished manuscript ready to go, you might be able to negotiate a fee of some kind for performing the novelization yourself.
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Old 08-23-2012, 02:53 AM   #9
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Default Re: Novel/ Screenplay - keeping ownership of the other

I had a different experience.
The couple of prodco's that requested my screenplay, in their release form specifically wanted all the rights transfered to them in case of a deal. But it's a high concept, suitable for sequels, and I guess that's why they wanted all.
I'm thinking of transferring the property of the novel to my wife (the novel is self pulbished), so the companies to stop blackmail me, as I'm willing to sell the screenplay or the film rights only.
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Old 08-23-2012, 04:39 AM   #10
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Default Re: Novel/ Screenplay - keeping ownership of the other

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoCalScribe View Post
One of the rights the production company usually tries to hold onto are the novelization rights... and if you haven't published your novel yet, they may not be inclined to give you those rights since that's a potential revenue stream for them.
I'm surprised to see this because conventionally novelization rights have been relatively easy to secure in most circumstances. Has there been a recent shift in this or are there particular situations in which novelization rights are difficult to retain?
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