If I co write a script, can the other author adapt it into anything they want without my permission or input? 2 Answers as of August 16, 2011

I co-wrote a screenplay with 1 other person. This person now wants to adapt the screenplay into a graphic novel, but they have cut me out of the artistic and publication process. They say they have a right to do whatever they want with the screenplay because they own 50% of it. But doesn't my 50% have a say in what the screenplay is adapted into, and how it is done?

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Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver, PLLC
Dunlap, Grubb & Weaver, PLLC | Thomas Mansfield Dunlap
Unfortunately your co-author likely has co-extensive rights in the script. Generally speaking, absent a written agreement to the contrary, all authors of a copyrighted work have the same full copyright rights in the works. On the other hand you too can publish a graphic novel based on the original work that directly competes with his graphic novel. The best thing to do to avoid this potential acrimony is hire an attorney to contact your co-author and try to work out an agreement. In the end it will work out for both of you if the respective rights of each party are defined. In hind site, this is a great example of why co-authors should always have a written agreement in advance of publication (preferably in advance of the writing project).
Answer Applies to: District of Columbia
Replied: 8/16/2011
Greenwald, Mayfield & Vigil, LLP
Greenwald, Mayfield & Vigil, LLP | Darrell J. Greenwald
The short answer is yes they can. Generally a co-author can exercise any of the rights in the copyrighted work that a sole author has. However, there are two limitations on the general rule. To the extent the co-author exploits the copyright (e.g., sells, licenses, etc. the work), the co-author must account to the other co-authors their share in the exploitation. Also, any exclusive transfer of rights in the copyright require the consent of all the copyright owners (as opposed to a nonexclusive transfer which any co-author can give by themselves). In your case, the co-author has the right to adapt the original story as they wish, with or without your creative input or consent. However, to the extent they sell or otherwise exploit the adaptation, you are entitled to, and the other co-author must account to you for, your half of the money they make from the exploitation. One final note. To the extent the other co-author wants to sell or exploit the adapted project, the buyer will probably insist on an exclusive transfer, which means your consent will be required. Warmest regards,
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 8/16/2011
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