How can I obtain rights to a published book? 2 Answers as of July 26, 2011Is it necessary to obtain the movie rights of a story that is considered folklore of a country. It has never been proven but a fictional book has been written on the story. Would I have to get rights to the book? Basically who owns the story, if anyone?
Greenwald, Mayfield & Vigil, LLP | Darrell J. Greenwald
Whether you need to purchase the rights in the book depends on whether the story is in the public domain and for an answer to that I would need more facts and would have to research the intellectual property laws of your country. However, assuming you do need the book rights to make the movie, you have several options to obtain the rights to a published book including, among others, purchasing the book, optioning the book, or attaching yourself as a producer via a shopping agreement. 1. The Purchase: A purchase agreement is exactly like what is sound; you purchase the movie rights outright so you can do as you please with them. However, movie rights purchases can cost anywhere from sever thousand dollars to sever hundred thousand dollars or more. Thus the purchase approach is costly and highly risky unless you have the power and money to produce, market and distribute the movie on your own (or you have preexisting commitment from a studio or distributor or financier to do so). Assuming you don't have this power (very few people who aren't name Spielberg have this capability). Buying the rights outright is probably not the best approach. 2. The Option: An option contract is a contract that gives you the exclusive right to do something in the future (in this case, the exclusive right to purchase the movie rights at a later time). In other words, an option gives you a brief period of time (usually within 12-18 months) to decide if you want to purchase the rights, without any commitment to actually purchase them and, since the option is exclusive, no one else can purchase the rights while you decide if you want to purchase them. Since the rights are not being purchase until later, if at all, the cost of an option is much lower than a purchase, and hence your risk is also lower. An option usually costs about 10% of the purchase price, which is agreed on in advance, but only due if the option is exercised (i.e., the purchase is made). So for anywhere from one dollar to few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars you can option the rights, and use your option period to pitch the story and try to secure that commitment needed to produce, market and distribute the film. In this way you hedge your investment so that if you are unsuccessful in obtaining the financing to produce the movie, you only lose the option money and not the larger purchase price. If you get the financing, you can use a portion of it to make the actual purchase so you don't come out-of-pocket yourself. The option is the method of choice among most producers, big and small, making films today. 3. Shopping Agreement: In a shopping agreement the Producer attaches himself to the project and becomes the exclusive shopper of the project for a period of time (again usually around 12-18 months but sometimes shorter). During this period the producer has the exclusive right to introduce the project to third parties such as talent (actors, directors, writers, etc.), studios, distributors, financiers. If a third party attaches to the project or finances it, the producer is guaranteed a role and money for putting the project together. Unlike the option however, if successful, the producer doesn't buy the rights, rather the third party purchases the rights while the Producer merely gets attached to the project and is a paid a fee and/or participation interest in the project. Because the no rights are being purchased at the start, a shopping agreement is similar in cost and risk to the option agreement (they range from as little as no upfront money to hundred dollars). This make a shopping agreement the most cost effective approach. However, since the owner of the book rights doesn't have to enter into an agreement with the third party unless the seller chooses to, the tradeoff is less control than an option however. I hope this information was helpful.
Answer Applies to: California