How do I get the rights to a book before adapting it into a screenplay.
February 10, 2005 1:14 AM   Subscribe

CopyrightFilter: If I want to adapt a copyrighted(?) book into a theater performance, do I need to get the rights? Can I write a script, maybe even do a workshop production or do I need to get the rights before I can even think about adaptation? Who do I talk to to get the rights, and how much does this usually cost? Does it matter if the venue is tiny, and the theater company has no money?
posted by geryon to Law & Government (7 answers total)
 
Some info at http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/
posted by shoos at 1:22 AM on February 10, 2005


If I want to adapt a copyrighted(?) book into a theater performance, do I need to get the rights?

Yes.

Who do I talk to to get the rights

Call the publisher and ask them who owns these specific derivative rights.

Can I write a script, maybe even do a workshop production or do I need to get the rights before I can even think about adaptation?

Get the rights first and save yourself mountains of pain later.

how much does this usually cost

Totally negotiable depending on the circumstances.

Does it matter if the venue is tiny, and the theater company has no money?

Maybe. Depends on who the rights holders are and how the negotiations go.
posted by anathema at 2:12 AM on February 10, 2005


I second all of what anathema answered.

You need to clear copyright. I help people with this all day long and most publishers and agents will have different levels that they're looking for as an advance. Don't just say you want to adapt it for the stage, have a plan- list when the play will open, how long you plan on keeping the play up, the size of the theater, what size audience you're expecting and even what you might charge for tickets. Keep in mind that whatever you agree upon as a fee, the publisher (assuming the publisher and not the author or agent hold the rights) will need to split with the author at least 50/50 so they're going to want to make the time spent on this worthwhile. Also, the popularity of the author and the size of the publishing company will determine where they will start negotiations. If you end up having to deal directly with the author it could end up being a smaller advance but a much longer response time for them to get back to you.
Good luck!
posted by rodz at 7:09 AM on February 10, 2005


Yup. All of the above. I think it's worth emphasizing that it could take quite a while to close a deal whether with publisher or author. Please plan accordingly.
posted by anathema at 7:17 AM on February 10, 2005


As a practical matter, you can adapt all you want for your own personal use as long as you don't publish or perform the derivative work. Nobody's going to sue you over that. But it'd suck to finish writing the adaptation and end up not being able to get permission, so I'd do that first.

The person to contact is most likely going to be the author's agent, as most publishing contracts for works of fiction merely buy publication rights from the author, but the publisher can tell you who that is.
posted by kindall at 8:10 AM on February 10, 2005


SOMETHING BORROWED
by MALCOLM GLADWELL
Should a charge of plagiarism ruin your life?

Great article on just this subject from the author of Blink.
posted by scazza at 7:48 PM on February 10, 2005


(Oh and I'd love to hear what you think of the article. My email is in my profile.)
posted by scazza at 7:59 PM on February 10, 2005


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