AFF Legal Stuff

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  • AFF Legal Stuff

    I recently wrote a historical drama based on a short period in the life of John Lennon which I was planning on submitting to this year's AFF. Clearly, I don't own the rights to Lennon's life, as this is merely a spec screenplay. However, I did notice this piece of legality on the contest rules for AFF:

    "Screenplays/teleplays must be the original work of the applicants. If based upon another's life, applicant(s) must attach a statement attesting to their rights to make such adaptations."

    So... does this mean I would have to attach some kind of legal statement, attesting to the fact that I own the rights to John Lennon's life? Seeing that I don't have that (and don't plan on ever having it), does that mean I'm, in essence, disqualified from entering? Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.
    "Someone shot me!" --Anonymous

  • #2
    Re: AFF Legal Stuff

    Not if they're dead.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: AFF Legal Stuff

      Above poster is right. People who are dead are typically fair game, but those who are still alive may not be. Bear in mind that you would need to prove that you have the life rights for every character in your script that is based on a living person.

      However, in addition to the dead, you can typically write about those in the public eye (like Paul McCartney, for example), but be aware that, without securing the life rights, you could open yourself up to a defamation suit by those individuals if you stray from historical facts at all. If everything is true, there's no defamation. However, if you knowingly distort their depiction or their life to suit the story, and you do not have their life rights, you're in trouble. Do a quick google search and you'll find that Yoko, Sean Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have all been involved in a number of lawsuits to protect their and John Lennon's work and image.

      Also, if you include anyone who is not a public figure or dead--you will definitely need their life rights or to cut them from the script. Lennon's family (outside maybe Yoko) would likely be off limits without life rights. You MIGHT be able to get away with including Sean or Julian Lennon, since they are both musicians and arguably in the public eye themselves--but Kyoko, for example, you could not depict without securing her life rights. Does that make sense?

      For future reference, I would suggest not even attempting a biopic unless everyone involved is deceased or you have secured the life rights.

      For AFF, your best bet would be to submit a legal statement that, although you don't own the life rights, the characters featured are either dead or are public figures.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: AFF Legal Stuff

        People, please be careful when giving legal/quasi-legal advice here.

        Yes, the "general rule" may be that you may write about a dead person without having obtained "rights". And the general rule may be you cannot be held liable for falsely impugning the righteousness of a dead person.

        BUT, libel and life rights are both matters of state law.

        And so, for starters, let's consider that Austin is in Texas. What is the law of Texas regarding libel/slander against a dead person?
        _____

        If I were OP, I'd simply contact AFF and ask them.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: AFF Legal Stuff

          Yes, it depends on jurisdiction. Thats also why I qualified my answer with "typically" and why I suggested the OP not write a biopic without life rights in the future.

          But since you asked, here is a link to Texas libel laws:
          [url]http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CP/htm/CP.73.htm[/

          However, your statement isn't entirely accurate either. Not all aspects of defamation law are state-driven. Many of the conditions required for a slander or libel suit were set by Supreme Court legal precedent. For example:

          "Public Figures
          Under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1964 Case, New York Times v Sullivan, where a public figure attempts to bring an action for defamation, the public figure must prove an additional element: That the statement was made with "actual malice". In translation, that means that the person making the statement knew the statement to be false, or issued the statement with reckless disregard as to its truth. For example, Ariel Sharon sued Time Magazine over allegations of his conduct relating to the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Although the jury concluded that the Time story included false allegations, they found that Time had not acted with "actual malice" and did not award any damages."
          Last edited by celticbeauty; 05-07-2015, 01:46 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: AFF Legal Stuff

            Originally posted by celticbeauty View Post
            Originally posted by Manchester View Post
            People, please be careful when giving legal/quasi-legal advice here.

            Yes, the "general rule" may be that you may write about a dead person without having obtained "rights". And the general rule may be you cannot be held liable for falsely impugning the righteousness of a dead person.

            BUT, libel and life rights are both matters of state law.

            And so, for starters, let's consider that Austin is in Texas. What is the law of Texas regarding libel/slander against a dead person?
            _____

            If I were OP, I'd simply contact AFF and ask them.
            Yes, it depends on jurisdiction. Thats also why I qualified my answer with "typically" and why I suggested the OP not write a biopic without life rights in the future.

            But since you asked, here is a link to Texas libel laws:
            [url]http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/CP/htm/CP.73.htm[/

            However, your statement isn't entirely accurate either. Not all aspects of defamation law are state-driven. Many of the conditions required for a slander or libel suit were set by Supreme Court legal precedent. For example:

            "Public Figures
            Under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1964 Case, New York Times v Sullivan, where a public figure attempts to bring an action for defamation, the public figure must prove an additional element: That the statement was made with "actual malice". In translation, that means that the person making the statement knew the statement to be false, or issued the statement with reckless disregard as to its truth. For example, Ariel Sharon sued Time Magazine over allegations of his conduct relating to the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Although the jury concluded that the Time story included false allegations, they found that Time had not acted with "actual malice" and did not award any damages."
            As I wrote, "libel and life rights are both matters of state law."

            IOW, AFAIK, there are no federal libel laws.

            Of course no law in the US - state, federal, territorial - may exceed limits imposed/afforded by the US Constitution. The Supreme Court has ruled on state-law libel disputes only because those disputes have implicated First Amendment protections. But the cases were driven by claims under state law.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: AFF Legal Stuff

              I meant no offense, Manchester, but at this point this discussion is getting far outside the scope of OPs question. I think it might be best to stick with what was asked.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: AFF Legal Stuff

                While it is outside the scope of the OP's question, it is a great discussion that covers some general information that many writers would benefit from. Perhaps, some of the more knowledgeable posters would consider meeting in the Octagon for a debate to the death on these issues. It would make an excellent sticky for the forum archives.
                I did a brief search in FAQ and couldn't find this topic specifically.


                Thanks Everyone

                Comment

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