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On Writing : Adapting a classic that's common domain, how do you copyright your work? by Susan I. Weinstein

Susan I. Weinstein

Adapting a classic that's common domain, how do you copyright your work?

Just finished adapting The Little Mermaid from the original Andersen story, faithful to his language and some changes for 2014. It's for a production in Williamsberg, NYC in June. I need to know about copyrighting the adaptation. Any info, please pass on.

Anthony Toohey

If you're in NY, there should be no shortage of lawyers who specialize in literary copyright. It might be well worth the consultation fee in this case - not only to copyright your work, but to avoid any potential nitpicking pitfalls with a certain other "Little Mermaid" production I hear tell about ;) Good luck.

Susan I. Weinstein

Thanks, Anthony. This production is June 3-6th in WIlliamsburg and is adult with original music by Rima Fand. I heard about the other one. The company that's doing it, coincidentally decided to produce their version after receiving a proposal from my son with part of my script. They never replied to him, but then announced they were doing a production. I had a statutory copyright from the early draft, dated on FD. I am not eager to spend 1,000, to a lawyer and may just pay 50 to the Library of Congress. I do not know that my script was pirated. But do not want further issues. If you can recommend a reasonable lawyer, do so. Thanks.

Anthony Toohey

I'm afraid I'm a California boy and know nobody in NY in that capacity. My few connections are in Hollywood, and tenuous at best :) As far as the other production - I confess I was talking about the Disney production. They are so sue-happy that if they see anything they perceive as being pulled from their creative team rather than directly from HCA, they'd probably harass you just because they can. I'd be curious to learn whether this other production ended up with any proprietary elements revealed in your proposal. Sounds like some difficult terrain to traverse. Again - good luck!

Susan I. Weinstein

I am not worried, it is very faithful to Andersen's language, taken from the common story translation. I imagine it's possible that other production was at least inspired by my son's proposal. But he says it's kind of slapstick and is different. But when you said "pesky" you did make me fear they might try to shut down ours. I am glad you only meant Disney. This is off-broadway. Can't imagine they will even know about it. And it's specifically called Andersen's.

Nancy Fulton

Your copyright (created the second you put anything on paper) will protect the words, images, etc you create. It won't protect the elements of the underlying story BUT that doesn't matter. Disney's version of Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, etc are all protected . . . and they don't care that there are 3 million other projects all named the same thing based on the same story. Neither should you . . . Do make sure you register the project at the copyright office --- copyright.gov. This provides real protection which will ensure no one can ever say you stole the script and therefore don't have a right to produce it.

Susan I. Weinstein

Actually I sent it away to the copyright office about a month ago. Am waiting for certificate to come back. Problem with theater, is that in the process of sending scripts out, you can have it appropriated. It's a rare occurrence but does happen. Thanks for your advice.

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