Screenwriting : Your rights regarding adapting public domain material for a screenplay by Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Your rights regarding adapting public domain material for a screenplay

Recently, I was reading about 20th Century horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and noticed that all his short stories published before 1923 were considered public domain. But what does that mean exactly? According to the Stanford University website public domain is defined as: "The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it." After some deliberation, I decided this was a golden opportunity to adapt some of Lovecraft’s public domain material into a horror script, which is what I promptly did. Last week, I decided to publish and ebook of three of my horror scripts, including my script called Tales From HP Lovecraft. The well-known ebook publisher promptly sent me a letter saying they would not move forward with my ebook because “they didn’t have confidence in my publishing rights.” I promptly went online and discovered they were selling several Lovecraft books, including one of their own, invoking the right to public domain. Technically, it’s their platform and they can do what they want. However, I sent them back a letter stating I had copyright ownership of my adapted screenplay, pointed out they had other Lovecraft ebooks selling under right of public domain and that I wanted their legal department to provide me with a detailed explanation of why there weren’t publishing my book and what I needed to do to different on my end. This morning they informed me they reversed their decision not to publish. Yesterday, I told my mother that the publisher wasn't moving forward with my ebook. But I further informed her that I was going to challenge their decision. She told me "you can't fight city hall." Yes, you can mom, just come armed with the facts.

Dan MaxXx

Hardy is the male version of Erin Brockovich! dont mess with Texans!

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Dan M: Thanks. John: You are free to adapt public domain material writers such as Shakespeare. HP's been dead for more than seventy years, so I'm not worried about him coming after me or suing. However, then again, he might haunt me. My cousin is lead legal counsel for a large New York publishing firm. Here's what he had to say: *Anything published before 1923 is public domain in the US. Globally (which matters, since Company X sells globally), the longest copyright term of which I am aware runs for 70 years after the author’s death. *

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

CJ: I just posted my cousin's legal opinion. He's handled the legal aspects of some well-known books. The ebook publisher has decided to publish my book.

Ryan A. Herring

@Phillip - my question for you is about your e-book adaptation of your scripts, was it straight across as in you didn't re-write it and are going to publish as screenplays, or re-written as a novel?

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

CJ: In one concise sentence, you have summarized the story of my life.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Ryan; the ebook is called 3 horror screenplays by Phillip E Hardy. But I'm banking on the broad appeal of the subjects, which are HP Lovecraft short stories, The Immortal Jack that has an interesting twist on the old Ripper story and the Bloody Benders, about the famous 19th century American family of serial killers.

Ryan A. Herring

@Phillip - Thanks, That sounds great. I've been working on a novel adaptation of a series I wrote so I'm interested in how other writers approach publishing their screenplays as books. I decide to try my hand at a full blown novel series. It's definitely a much different beast than script-writing, but I'm learning a lot and it gets me thinking more about my characters and the smaller details of my story.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Ryan: I wrote a novel once and it blows, but I did make $12,000 selling it online. So my hat's off to you for turning your screenplays in the novels. It's a lot of hard work.

William Martell

Why not ditch the middle man and publish it yourself?

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

William Martell: Great idea and giving that some serious consideration.

Deenur E Gill

I have adapted 2 Philip K Dick stories (pub domain) into screen plays. Both of them have a good amount of original material (25-35%) so even if somone else adapted the same stories, they would not be like my stories.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Deenur: That sounds interesting and challenging. I really used the basic story outlines for the Lovecraft short stories and then went on my merry way.

Deenur E Gill

I will be doing an upcoming blog on 'adaptions' on Script Revolution.

Tony Cella

I'm a fan of Lovecraft. With his growing cultural influence, it's a surprise more of his stories haven't appeared on screen. Once I'm finished with my current projects I'll be adapting a short story one of his influence's wrote to fit modern day.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Tony: I look forward to reading it when it's done.

Tony Cella

@Phillip: For sure. I'll send it along. Lovecraft wouldn't haunt you. He was a strict materialist. Returning from the grave would be admitting he was wrong. He was too proud to move to the big cities to earn a living as a publisher; I doubt the after-life has diminished his pride.

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