How Can I Purchase Film Rights When The Original Material Is Based Upon A Book?

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Question: There is a classic film that I wish to rewrite. The original film was based upon a book that is now out of print. The movie was not a huge success, but it’s one that would have a much better audience in today’s market. How do I go about purchasing the film rights?

Response: Acquiring the rights to a book typically starts with an option. This means that you pay a negotiated sum of money for the exclusive right to sell the idea of a movie on the book within a specified period of time. This option period can run from anywhere from six to nine months, however, one year is the most common. During the option period, you can pitch the project and determine its marketability. The option agreement should specify the amount you will pay if you decide to move forward with the project and purchase the rights. Keep in mind; the option fee is dependent on a number of factors. These may include the popularity of the book, the length of the option period and the media in which you intend to use the rights.

If the book is extremely old and is no longer protected by copyright law, it may be in the “public domain”. That means that the copyright protection has lapsed and anyone can copy it without permission. If this is the case, you won’t need to obtain permission to use the material for your film. You may want to get some advice from an attorney specializing in entertainment law.

Answered by Linda Adams

Additional Resources: U.S. Copyright Laws

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