One of the first concerns you should prioritize is obtaining rights to the novel you are considering. You must explore this step thoroughly and follow the steps to ensure that you are not infringing on the original author’s rights by adapting the novel.
What is a Literary Acquisition Contract?
A literary acquisition contract sometimes called an “Option and Literary Purchase Agreement,” is an agreement to acquire some or all rights in a literary work such as a novel.
Producers or purchasers generally use this contract to ensure they have legally obtained the rights to literary projects. This is imperative as it keeps the novel’s author from returning after the adaptation has been finished and claiming that the producer didn’t have rights to the original piece of work.
An imperative piece of the contract should include that the purchaser may choose not to move forward with the movie. This protects them from the writer forcing the work into production based on the signed agreement.
What are the Key Aspects That a Purchaser Should Consider?
Purchasers will want to obtain the copyright registration number from the seller, so they can check the records to determine if there are any rights they haven’t considered and that the rights they require are entirely void of other rights already purchased.
Clear and concise instructions regarding the extent of the rights sold should be included. In some cases, limited rights are sold, and additional information regarding which rights are being sold should be included. In other words, the purchaser may have exclusive license rights or non-exclusive rights they wish to purchase from the seller.
It is also essential to consider whether or not the purchaser will want to obtain sequel or remake rights. This may come at an additional cost to the purchaser.
What is Important to Writers While Selling Adaptation Rights?
Some writers may choose to maintain certain rights over their work. They may consider writing a sequel and want to preserve their right to continue using the book’s characters. There should be a distinction in writing enabling the writer to continue rights to the characters through another book or a movie sequel to avoid future issues.
What if the Purchaser Wants to Make Change?
The purchaser will need to consider obtaining exclusive rights to make changes strongly. This can help avoid future issues should they want to change a line from the novel when creating a film. Rather than seeking a revised agreement each time a change arises, they can consider this up front while creating the contract so the purchaser and the production companies can make necessary changes as they see fit to the storyline, characters, and other details.
Some writers may choose to deny this request. After all, it is their original work, and they will want to protect the dignity of the intended purpose rather than see their characters or storyline adjusted on film.
What Other Steps Can Be Taken To Avoid Future Issues?
Errors and Omissions (E&O) Insurance is additional step purchasers, and studios take. This insurance can protect the purchaser from potential legal issues regarding the unauthorized use of ideas, characters, formats, plagiarism, and breach of contract. An E&O Policy provides an extra cushion should legal matters present themselves in the future. Typically, judgments and legal fees can be paid through the E&O Policy rather than through the purchaser or producers.
What are Option Rights?
In some cases, a purchaser may choose to make a movie out of a novel and have a clear path to accomplish this and the financial means to do so. This would be an excellent opportunity for them to make a contract for the complete purchase of the rights.
Some purchasers aren’t set up to move forward with the movie in the immediate future or are not financially able to complete the purchase on the spot.
In this case, purchasers can choose the rights to the novel. This typically results in a year for them to decide whether or not a movie will be created when they can make the total purchase. A year is a general timeline, but extensions can typically be made to the year timeline. During this year, no one else can attempt to purchase rights to the novel.
The purchase price for the option is estimated at 10% of the cost for the full rights to the novel. This is only sometimes the case. Some authors will choose not to charge anything significant for the option out of excitement for their book making it to the big screen. On the contrary, famous or more seasoned authors may disagree with options and demand that the purchaser pays for the rights in full.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
There are several ways in which a lawyer can help with acquiring rights. First and foremost, they are skilled and professional and can offer invaluable guidance on the entire process, helping to streamline it for both purchasers and writers.
Negotiations will occur in most acquisition transactions. Having an experienced lawyer to help you navigate this section can be imperative, rather than entering into negotiations without knowing how much is real and what is not.
A lawyer can also help ensure that all contracts are written and thorough. This is crucial, so you can rest easy knowing that you haven’t overlooked important information that can cause legal issues in the future.
Contact our office today at (323) 230-6200 to learn more about how our team can best assist you.