legal remake?



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  • legal remake?

    Any opinions (or facts)? I would like to remake a script that's about 20 years old. In fact it was a very little, unkown, BOMB. But I like the concept and I think I could modernize it into a very successful script. Considering it's age and status, do I need to aquire rights or permission to write this? How much of the writing needs to be different in order to avoid aquiring the rights? I've never adapted or remade before--any ideas?

  • #2
    Whether it was a bomb or a hit, some studio owns the rights to it as part of their library. So it's not yours to remake.

    Depending on your approach, you may be able to write another story with a "similar" idea.


    • #3
      yes. for instance barb wire was a remake of casablanca. talk to blueparrot for more information. he's working on a remake of cyrano de bergerac.


      • #4
        Buy The Rights

        It doesn't matter if the film was a hit or a miss, if it was made by a studio - they own the rights. You have to either buy the rights from the studio or have the studio hire you to write the remake BEFORE you write it.

        Old copyright law gave the rights holder 56 years - so that 20 years isn't enough time in the absolute best (for you) case scenario. New laws are 75 years from the death of the writer. These laws are there to PROTECT WRITERS (like you) from people using their material without payment. If you wrote a great original story, you wouldn't want people to make millions from using it without any payment for you, right?

        Though I'm NOT a copyright lawyer, I think anything written 100 years ago or more is probably out of copyright by now... but you should still make sure before you begin writing. I thought H.G. Wells TIME MACHINE was probably in public domain - I was wrong! The Wells family still controls those rights (new film version coming soon).

        Your best bet (as always) is to write an original screenplay.

        - Bill

        New Script Tips Begin Today!


        • #5
          Remake or homage?

          Well, if you change enough things, you can do this.
          But just about everything would have to change.

          Let me make a case in point. Galaxy Quest is extremely similar to Bugs Life and both are comedy versions of the Seven Samurai.

          Did anyone at Dreamworks pay for any rights when they made Galaxy Quest?

          Oh the other hand, the setting, plot points, and characters are all changed (although that general does look like a big grasshopper). The theme remains the same.


          • #6
            Re: Buy The Rights

            Thanks for the advice, everyone. Hey, Bill, I actually met you at a Sherwood Oaks seminar about a month ago. Good to see you on this site.

            How would I go about acquiring the rights if I wanted to? Since the movie was a bomb, would the rights be cheaper? Would people consider this project to be worthless making it easier to acquire? Any ideas?


            • #7
              You can use the idea as long as your "execution" of the idea is your own. That said, get a lawyer to explain the difference.

              <!--EZCODE ITALIC START--> Cyrano de Bergerac<!--EZCODE ITALIC END--> is in public domain and anybody can remake it.

              <!--EZCODE ITALIC START--> Seven Samurai<!--EZCODE ITALIC END--> is based on <!--EZCODE ITALIC START--> Seven Against Thebes<!--EZCODE ITALIC END--> which was written 2300 years ago and is in public domain.


              • #8
                One of the reasons for doing a remake is, you get to piggy back your sales campaign on all the sales and marketing work and word of mouth associated with the original work when you market the new movie. This is also a reason to base a work on a best selling novel or a pre-existing television show or stage work. Part of your work selling the movie is already done for you because just the title carries significant recognition factor. That holds value. And you pay the owner of the original work for that, i.e. you buy the film rights to whatever you are basing your work on.

                A concept cannot be copyrighted. If you just like the concept, but want to write your own story and characters and plot, you are in the clear.

                If you want to use characters and plot elements from a pre-existing work, you cannot legally do that unless you track down the owners of film rights to that work and negotiate with and pay them for those film rights.

                The only time this does not apply is if you are satirizing a work, satire works a little differently.

                Also, who owns film rights can be a cloudy issue with older films. Some older projects, for example, some of the Eeling (sp?) studio projects, were broken up and sold in pieces to different entities quite a while back so sometimes nailing down all film rights to an older project can be touch and go.


                • #9
                  Girlingray...Adams girl...I loved your book. It was the first thing I read when I got to LA.

                  I'm still new to this message board thing...glad to see I'm in good company.