Author Topic: Movie Producer  (Read 17745 times)

Offline Becca800

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Movie Producer
« on: May 18, 2012, 03:35:57 PM »
I am self-published now as my literary agent backed out for certain reasons which is another story.  Recently, I made a video trailer of the book and posted it in numerous places.

A few days later, a 20th Century Fox movie producer emailed.  I checked the email domain which it came from and checked out his IMBD profile.  He asked if the movie rights were still available and also asked for a copy of the book but in another format besides Kindle since he does not own one.  I sent him a PDF.

A friend told me that this was likely a scam because all Hollywood people like to steal material and pitch it as their own.  Has anyone heard of this before?  Is this a prevalent tactic?

I emailed him back and he said that he and his team were not finished reading it.  Any steps I should take?  I have kept all emails from him.

munley

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2012, 02:24:24 AM »
When you say you emailed him back, did you email say you wanted to withdraw your book from consideration? Were you just checking on the status of your submission?

Hard to guess the significance of his saying his team was not finished reading yet without knowing what sort of email he was responding to.

Offline bodwen

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2012, 02:50:17 AM »

This doesn't sound like a scam to me.  Yeah, Hollywood people steal things left and right  (It's no coincedence that two new releases based on similar ideas from two rival studios always seem to appear at the same time) but usually from their competitors or their slush piles.

If he wanted to steal your materials, why wouldn't he just steal them, instead of creating an email trail you can use to take him to court? 

More likely he wants to option the work, which is good news for you.

Offline scott_m_baker

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2012, 10:28:52 AM »
This is a common practice in Hollywood, according to a screen writer friend.  What you need to do is proof that the story is your intellectual property so that, if a movie is made that is based almost verbatim on your story, you at least have a good case in court to either demand a financial settlement or that your work gets the proper screen credit. 

I suggest you send yourself an email with your short story attached or, even better, print a copy and certify mail it to yourself and do not open the envelope. 

Hopefully, though, it won't come down to this, but better to be safe than sorry.  Good luck.

Offline AnyaHarker

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2012, 10:33:24 AM »
I suggest you send yourself an email with your short story attached or, even better, print a copy and certify mail it to yourself and do not open the envelope. 

Hopefully, though, it won't come down to this, but better to be safe than sorry.  Good luck.

That's called a poor man's copyright and it is not valid for copyright protection in the US. Common misconception.

You're fine with having a copy saved on your computer's hard drive. If it came down to litigation, you would need to register with the US copyright office, but until then, you have full copyright protection in your work.
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Offline bodwen

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2012, 11:39:14 AM »
Right.  The timestamp on the video on youtube is better protection.  The poorman copyright doesn't work since what's to stop you from walking into the postoffice and having them postmark an unsealed envelope?

But like I said, I think you're safe, since the producer emailed you regarding his intentions.  It's a lot cheaper to get a kindle than a lawyer.  A movie once came out that was eerily similar to a story I once wrote and posted on the web, but for all I know that's just a coincidence.  I did check the writing, directing, and producing credits to see if it was someone I was connected with. 

Offline dougie

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2012, 09:17:48 AM »
From what you've said, this might very well be legit.  Someplace recently, I remember reading an article about Hollywood is seriously starting to look at self-pubbed novels to turn into movies. 

If this 20th C. Fox really wanted to steal your property, he wouldn't have sent you an email about it-- what he would have done is annnonymously bought your book.  You never would have heard from him!

Offline bodwen

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2012, 09:50:17 AM »
I just learned something interesting about this:  you'll probably want to register your copyright right away with the copyright office.

By law he can't take your stuff in any case, but with a registered copyright on your work, he has to pay your court costs if this ever goes to trial and the judge finds in your favor.  Those can be significantly more than the judgement.  Plus it's proof of authorship.  Without a registered copyright, you'd have to call witnesses.  A timestamp isn't considered evidence since they're too easily faked.

For most of us it doesn't matter, since our work is already released and available to the general public by the time it might fall into the wrong hands.  But if you're at all nervous, pay the $35 so you don't have to worry.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2012, 09:59:15 AM by bodwen »

Offline Tabris

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2012, 09:54:43 AM »
Also, if they try to take something that's officially copyrighted (within 90 days of publication) they have to pay $150,000 in damages. Aww, poor babies.

Offline DrCarter2001

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2012, 11:36:32 AM »
If it's already published (even self-published), doesn't that serve as an official copyright? In any case, I agree, though, that since it's self-published it's best to go ahead and copyright it as a published work.

I'm confused as to how this guy contacted you, though, and why. Had he read the book already? If so, why did he need a PDF? Or was it solely based on the video trailer? That would seem odd to solicit movie rights without knowing anything about the story and would raise red flags, unless you sold 100,000 copies and won all sorts of awards for it already.

Offline AnyaHarker

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2012, 11:44:08 AM »
If it's already published (even self-published), doesn't that serve as an official copyright? In any case, I agree, though, that since it's self-published it's best to go ahead and copyright it as a published work.

It depends on your country of origin. If you're a US citizen, in order to have copyright protection it must be formally filed. It's one of the few areas where the US is not in compliance with the Berne Convention. Most elsewhere in the world, a work is granted copyright protection at the moment of fixation (meaning, in the simplest terms, the exact moment word is put to paper or computer screen)

One of these days I'm editing my copyright law paper and posting it up here for you guys. X)
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Offline bodwen

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2012, 12:36:09 PM »
My understanding was that the copyright law changed in the 70's to match the rest of the world.  You don't have to file.  As soon as you write something, you hold the copyright to it, until you transfer it to someone.  Then they hold it for a duration stated in the contract, or for a maximum of 35 years, at which time you have five years to file to get them back.  (Unless you waived this right in your contract.)

However, if you want to take someone to court, it turns into a "his word against yours" situation without a filed and registered copyright.  If he registers the copyright in 2015 and you've got a book bearing your name as the author and a copyright stamp from 2012, with royalty checks and printed reviews in major newspapers from 2012, the judge or jury might laugh him out of court.  But if all you have to protect yourself is the manuscript, a string of emails, and a video trailer which doesn't include the hijacked content, it will be harder to prove.  So even if the judge finds in your favor, the award will be smaller.

If you're at all nervous that someone is going to steal your stuff, register with the copyright office.  It's a lot cheaper and easier than taking on an army of entertainment lawyers.

Then again I'm not a lawyer, I'm just an author who just attended a copyright law seminar.  I could be completely wrong here, so please correct me.

Offline AnyaHarker

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2012, 01:54:06 PM »
Okay, disclaimer time.

I'm a non-practising attorney in NY. I graduated from Law school but as I've decided to pursue a career in publishing, I did not sit for the bar. Thus, anything you read here is for informational use and should not constitute legal advice. If you're really concerned about things, I suggest you talk to a lawyer.

Okay, now that that's out of the way...

Even with the amendments in the 70s, the US is not in compliance with the rest of the world in regards to the need for registration. It's confusing based on terminology. Yes, you have copyright protection from the moment of fixation. HOWEVER, you cannot bring an infringement case in the US courts without filing. You can file after an infringing work surfaces, mind. It's simply that in order to bring suit in federal court, it must be registered.

As for an award? It's hard to say what it will be in each individual case. A judge could find for either damages by way of lost profits and actual damages encountered OR they will award statutory damages. It's also up to the discretion of the judge if they will award attorney costs or any other damages to the prevailing side as well. Just a quick note on statutory damages: From Section 504(c)(2) of the US copyright act:
Quote
In a case where the copyright owner sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000. In a case where the infringer sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that such infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of statutory damages to a sum of not less than $200. ...

Really, if you're concerned about your rights as a copyright holder -- Title 17 is always available for you to read through. Yeah, it's a lot of mumbo-jumbo in some cases (sadly, I can read statutory language now. Thanks law school), but that's where your rights come from.

I will be editing my copyright paper this weekend and posting it up on my blog for those who are interested.
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Offline bodwen

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2012, 02:09:04 PM »
Awesome, thanks.  The biggest thing I took away from this class is that the laws regarding publishing and licensing are so convoluted that there is no way I'd ever attempt to write my own contracts.   :)

Offline AnyaHarker

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Re: Movie Producer
« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2012, 02:14:48 PM »
You're welcome! Yeah, the copyright laws are insanely complex -- but I was the dolt/dork who loved everything having to do with contracts and copyright law... so here I am, working toward becoming an agent in 5 or so years. X) we'll see. But glad to be of help!
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