Are there any copyright laws protecting ideas or stories taken from literature or magazine articles for movie ideas?

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Question:  I recently read an article in a well-known magazine based upon an individual’s life.  I found the story fascinating and would like to make it into a film.  How do I go about acquiring the film rights for this story?

Response:  There are a variety of ways to acquire the rights to turn this person’s story into a film.  Your first option is to acquire the right to adapt the article into a screenplay.  You will need to obtain the rights from the person who wrote the article or from the magazine that hired the author.  A second option is to acquire the rights to the individual’s life story directly from him or her.  If it is the article that initially drew you to the story, you must obtain the film rights to the article.  If you only obtain the rights to the person’s life story, you might expose yourself to copyright infringement if your film even remotely resembles the events, the tone or plot line of the article.

You should contact the publisher of the magazine and express your interest in the article and make an offer to option it.  An option is the exclusive right to purchase the rights in a literary or intellectual property.  Make sure that the rights granted you are broad in scope so that you are free to adapt the film anyway you wish.  You may also want to contact an entertainment lawyer for help with these complex legal issues.

Answered by Linda Adams

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