How to sign away rights to a story
January 19, 2020 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Back in college, I wrote a short story and got it published in a magazine. The rights have long since reverted to me. Now a friend has said they really want to do a graphic novel of the story. I really want nothing to do with the thing anymore (it contains material I now realize is problematic; racist, sexist etc) Can I file a document or something that says Friend has total rights to do a graphic novel of the story, and I wash my hands of it (including no share of any profits, I wouldnt feel right taking any)?
posted by Pastor of Muppets to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
(in case it matters; it's your standard sword&sorcery hero goes and kills primitive foreigners and meets beautiful stupid women thing)
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 12:42 PM on January 19


If you think it's so bad you don't want your name on it, surely you don't want it out there at all? Maybe work with your friend to make it less problematic.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:57 PM on January 19 [37 favorites]


As a creator you always have moral rights. You can't sign them away. You can sign something about authorising your friend to do what they want with the work, tell your friend you do not want your name associated with it or any kind of acknowledgement and will not pursue them for copyright violation. Not sure what else you could do but honestly, my understanding is that copyright violations are usually prosecuted by the original creator so if you have no interest in doing so, it should be fine.

I am not a lawyer but have gone through several interminable days of copyright training done by lawyers.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:58 PM on January 19 [5 favorites]


If you’re in the US (or UK, not sure about elsewhere) you can absolutely transfer the copyright to your friend via a legal document. Or you can give him an exclusive license to use it. Or you can put the work into the public domain (in which case anyone, not just your friend, could use it). I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know the specific words you need to use, but basically copyrights are property and can be sold/given away like anything else.
posted by mskyle at 1:22 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Do you want your friend specifically to have the rights, which would mean they could sue other people including yourself for using your original story later, or do you just want to release it entirely? Personally I wouldn't want to grant full rights to a friend because then I would be worried about what they would do later, and I would probably make it public domain by using CC0 to establish that I am releasing all legal and moral rights. Your friend can still make their graphic novel, but so could anyone else and it is clear that you will never need to be involved again. But if you want to give priority to your friend specifically this is a bad idea
posted by JZig at 1:23 PM on January 19 [3 favorites]


The world does not need more problematic racist sexist projects. I say either rewrite it to make it less harmful, just stick it under the bed and pretend it never happened. Please don't release harmful fiction into the world.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:41 PM on January 19 [10 favorites]


If you’re embarrassed enough that you wouldn’t want naming rights or money for it, I wouldn’t let it be published at all. Also, if the story gets pushback from people due to the mentioned issues, what’s to stop Friend defending himself by saying, oh I didn’t write it, that was Pastor of Muppets and there you are, embroiled in it regardless.
posted by Jubey at 7:55 PM on January 19 [11 favorites]


Athanassiel is correct, and so is Jubey.
You are referring to the moral rights, and not the usual intellectual property rights. What you seem to want is to disown the story, make it so that you are no longer responsible for having written it. Since time travel is (probably?) not an option, the only sure way to do that is not to put the story out into the world.
You can't change the fact that you *did* write it, and that you *are* responsible for its contents.
You can sign away the right to get money from it, or even the right to be credited as the author. But you can't sign away the fact that you are the author.
posted by Zumbador at 6:29 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


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