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News From The Web - Legal Issues and

          Copyright Archive

Q&A: What Life Rights Do I Need to Write a Screenplay About Someone Who Died But Has Surviving Family?

Matt Galsor

Law Law Land


First of all, there is really no such thing as life story rights. There is the right against being defamed. There is the right against certain private facts about you being publicly disclosed without your permission — the New York Times would be violating it if its reporter sneaked in your bedroom, copied your most secret diary entries, and published them. And there are certain other rights of this nature. But there is no life story rights. 


Dougie Brimson


For some reason I’ve never been able to fathom, I receive a lot of mails asking me for advice about contracts, both publishing and screen. Now to be clear, whilst I have done a lot of deals during my agent free days, I am certainly no expert in this field and should not be considered as such. In fact, what knowledge I have accrued is generally a result of my own mistakes and trust me, I have made some corkers over the years. 

Will Hollywood Steal My Movie?

David Silverman

Psych Central


When I first started selling features, I noticed that there was the true story of Pope Joan, the only female Pope. She kept her gender a secret, until she gave birth, and suddenly everyone knew. Sounded like it’d make an interesting movie. I pitched it to Universal, they didn’t buy it. Years went by, but I never had a time to write that script, too busy with other projects. I did notice, much later, somebody else was making Pope Joan. Did they steal my idea? Not really.

What Screenwriters Need to Know About Submission Releases

Dinah Perez

Script Magazine


If you are not represented by an agent or manager, it is likely that you will be required to sign a “Submission Release” when you ask to submit your screenplay to a producer or studio/network. A “Submission Release” is a written agreement whereby you relieve the recipient of your screenplay from liability should he/she use any of the content in your screenplay that is not protected by copyright, such as your idea or the public domain material incorporated therein.

Not an Option: The Ins and Outs of Shopping Agreements

Robert Zipser

Filmmaker Magazine


The motion picture and television industries have become increasingly informal in recent years. These days, many agents will “hip-pocket” new artists and promote them without a contract to avoid commitment; a collaborator will walk a project into the studio on the mere promise of a partnership with his teammates; and producers will frequently enter into so-called “Shopping Agreements” with writers.


Larry Zerner

Zerner Law Offices


If the WGA is interested in making sure that its members receive the greatest possible protection for their scripts it should immediately shut the Registry down or take significant steps to make sure that the Registry does not act in a way that is antithetical to the best interests of screenwriters.

John Carpenter Wins Plagiarism Case Against Luc Besson Over 'Lockout'

Kevin Jagernauth

The Playlist


In 2012, Luc Besson's mid-budget action factory delivered "Lockout," a sci-fi-ish action movie that saw a game Guy Pearce leading a dumb yet more-enjoyable-than-it-had-any-right-to-be adventure about an ex-con tasked with rescuing the President's daughter from a prison…in space! Box Office described the picture as "a sleek, slick and shameless rip-off of John Carpenter's Snake Plissken films 'Escape from New York' and 'Escape from L.A.' " And Carpenter himself agreed.

Stolen Screenplay Ideas: A Look at Recent Cases

Simon Pulman

Cowan, Debaets, Abraham & Sheppard LLP


It’s a tale almost as old as Hollywood itself. A new movie comes out and garners some attention and commercial success and, before the first profit participation checks have been mailed (and even if the movie never turns a profit), a lawsuit has been filed alleging that some element of the movie was stolen from an earlier work – and often an earlier work that has never seen the light of day commercially.

Screenwriting Agreements

Keith E. Cooper

Production Counsel Blawg


Form contracts, especially those in books, are not meant to be used by anyone. They are samples of fictitious ideal transactions which don’t exist. They’re meant to show the types of things that go into an agreement, but not necessarily your agreement

Depicting Real Persons in Screenplays

Keith E. Cooper

Production Counsel Blawg


I had a question recently from a screenwriter client who wanted to know what rights are needed for a screenplay about an historic person. In this case, a celebrity who is dead.

As with most legal issues, to give a reliable answer to this question, an attorney needs to know exactly who is being depicted and the gist of the story being told. After my client gave me the facts, I was able to give guidelines for keeping the script out of litigation.

Managing Content in the Frame:Script Clearance, Background Copyrights and Third-Party Ownership Rights

Jon M. Garon

Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell


Although film is an expressive art form, it is also an increasingly international and highly commercial business. As a result, filmmakers should be very selective regarding choices to use a third party’s property—copyrighted works, trademarks, readily identified individual names or corporate names—without express permission.

The Screenwriters Guide to Option Agreements

Scott Kirkpatrick

Filmmaking Stuff


If you’re like most screenwriters, the scenario you’re working towards, aside from on outright purchase of your spec script, is getting an option agreement. An option agreement is a deal that essentially ‘loans out’ or ‘rents’ the rights to your script to a producer or production company in hopes they can get the movie made. The idea of an option agreement seems great. It is a low risk opportunity where well connected pros get to pitch and promote your screenplay and handle all that intimidating business stuff.

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