Anything Goes : Is it possible to sell my work without loosing all my IP rights? by Christopher Poet

Christopher Poet

Is it possible to sell my work without loosing all my IP rights?

I was not sure what other lounge to post this in, so here we go.

First, before anyone comments, I have a semi vague understanding of the process I am speaking about. Mainly due to the lack of detail research has generated. Finding articles about what happens when you sell a scrip[t (or set of scripts), none of them have really gone into detail. I assume this is because these arrangements might differ person to person.

In any case, what I have come to understand is that if I were to make a pitch and take it to someone and they want to buy it, then in doing so I loose any and all ownership rights I ever had to anything located within the script, unless (correct me if I am wrong), I own some published material related to what was pitched.

My question however, is that if you do not have anything published, is it still possible to prevent yourself from loosing all your ownership rights as an author? I am starting to look into this again as more and more people who see my work keep urging me to do this rather than produce the material myself. However, i am not keen on the idea of taking a risk and letting someone take 14 years worth of work and change half of it for one reason or another and instead make something completely different than what was intended. Honestly, I would not do it to become a millionaire.

So, from your experience or knowledge, if any, does anyone know how one could manage this? Or is this literally only an option for someone who has a background in the industry? (Which is another thing I see often in articles discussing the issue.)

Doug Nelson

The simple answer is: When you sell it - it's not your property anymore. That doesn't mean that you may/may not be brought into the production process - but that's the new owner's desecration. You certainly negotiate all sorts of things up front. I've sold scripts outright, cashed the check and went on with life - a couple have gone on to production that I'm not even mentioned in; but I got paid. Are you doing this for money or glory?

If I sell you my car, do I still have the right to drive it on the weekends?

Tony S.

"...that's the new owner's desecration." I'm sure many writers who sold their scripts might feel that way about their former property. :)

Christopher Poet

Doug Nelson I get where you are coming from with the reference to the car, and I understand the point to be maid. To answer your question though, I am neither interested in the money or the glory. Granted, sure, I would love it if I retained credit for the concept and what not. But my overall goal in this is to be absolute sure whoever I sell it to (or should I say whoever is interested in buying) doesn't take it and tear it apart.

Over the initial response, It appears the best I can do is either make it conditional that I am included in the writing process. Granted, I feel that could come off as too demanding or having too much faith in my own work? Really, I am not even sure if that would be considered good or bad. Let alone if I could get away with it. Probably not.

Christopher Poet

Tony S. Precisely what I want to avoid. The last thing I want to do is sit back regretting the choice. Especially if you saw the scope of the work I have.

Tony S.

Probably a wonky spell check. The car analogy is apt. The final decision is always yours. It's a devil's bargain.

Christopher Poet

Tony S. Fair enough.

Lindbergh E Hollingsworth

Sold is sold. Just take the money and run. If they mess it up you can always lobby to have your name removed.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Well, that’s not the case with art. Buying an artistic work the ownership is joint; some rights go to the buyer and others are retained by the work’s creator who still owns copyright. Let’s say, a buyer hangs a painting of mine in their house and the room it is in is photographed and used in a retail magazine without my permission, then my rights have been infringed upon. Exhibition purposes are okay but using my artwork for the promotion and/or sale of something else is not. Another example, let’s say a buyer buys several of my paintings and without getting my permission decides to use them as images on a series of greetings cards she sells online—big no-no. Again, my rights are infringed. So, in a nutshell, selling a work I still retain copyright unless other contractual arrangements have been made and I have signed over my claim of copyright. Of course, every situation is different. Christopher, my advice to you is talk to a lawyer. Get the facts and legal possible scenarios. You could still own or retain some rights depending on how or to whom or what the situation and circumstances are surrounding your particular work and its contract of sale. ;)

Doug Nelson

When you sell your property outright, you transfer title which includes all of your rights to that property (warranty deed). You can negotiate to retain certain rights (limited warranty deed). It's not uncommon for a screenwriter to try to retain certain 'rights' (tv or book) nor is it uncommon for a film distributor to have to pass on certain 'rights' (foreign, tv...)

Christopher Poet

Beth Fox Heisinger Yea, talking to a legal rep is on my list of things to do. Just need to save enough to afford that short conversation.

Beth Fox Heisinger Doug Nelson Thanks for your replies in the meantime. At the least, it does give me a better understand of how this work.

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