Questions on Copyright & Other Legal Issues
Should I copyright my writing?
In the UK, copyright of your writing is automatically yours. You don’t need to do anything specific beyond this. MORE ON THIS.
However, copyrighting work by sending it to an outside agency is pretty much mandatory in the USA. If you want to send your work to America, you will have to do this. Bang2writers have reported good user experiences copyrighting work with The Writer’s Guild of America and The Script Vault.
If you want to copyright your writing and it gives you peace of mind, then fine (just avoid using the copyright symbol on your cover – in the UK some readers, agents, producers etc call this ‘the nutter detector’).
CLICK HERE for more on this, written by a legal expert.
What is an option and how does it work?
An option basically means someone (usually a producer) has bought the rights to your writing for a specified amount of time. During this time, the producer will work to raise the money to make the film or TV series. This is most often a screenplay, but novels can be optioned too. Here’s more details, plus a sample screenplay option (PDF).
What is a release form? Is it the same as NDA?
A release form is a just a ‘permission to read’ document. These are pretty standard in the USA, though you generally won’t find them in the UK.
NDAs or Non-Disclosure Agreements are generally for COMPANIES and/pr producers or publishers, not individual writers. Never, ever, ever send an NDA out with your writing.
If worried about ANY form, Google a bunch of templates and see how they differ. Generally, they will all be the same. (If yours differs wildly, avoid that company or person). More on release forms and NDAs, HERE.
What are the legalities of adaptations, true stories & mentioning copyrighted work?
In short, there’s a ton of stuff you need to consider about all of the above.
- Adapting work –something is only in the ‘public domain’ (ie. non copyright) 70 years AFTER its creator dies … and that’s just the UK. You need to check your own country.
- True stories – you may need permission from the person you’re writing about, or their family. Check!
- Copyrighted work – mention REAL stuff can be problematic in both screenplays and novels. This is especially true of song lyrics and quotes.
CLICK HERE for a post written by a solicitor on all this.
How can I tell if a producer, publisher, agent, writing contest or service etc is legit??
You need to do your due diligence. That involves asking around, seeing if multiple independent people recommend them or say stay away. Don’t just rely on one or two people either. CLICK HERE for more on how to do your due diligence.
Someone did me over. Can I tell everyone???
It depends. Since the media is built on relationships, airing your dirty laundry in public can be a bad idea … However, that notion must be tempered with rejecting complicity with scumbags, scammers, abusers and exploiters. So this is something that needs weighing up carefully. HOW you tell people is just as important as WHY. If in doubt, speak to legal experts. MORE HERE.
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