Contracts

Will Author Solutions Case Go Class Action?

19 May 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Federal judge Denise Cote could soon decide whether the ongoing case against self-publishing service provider Author Solutions will go forward as a class action. In the latest round of briefs, attorneys for the plaintiff authors argue that a common question sits at the core of the case, and merits action class status: “Did [Author Solutions] engage in a fraudulent scheme to sell authors worthless marketing services?” But in a reply motion filed last week, Author Solutions attorneys claim the case is without merit, and falls short of the requirements for class certification.

Notably, the latest round of briefs details an evolving case, including a “shifting roster” of author plaintiffs, and a narrowing of the case from the the initial complaint. First filed in spring of 2013, the initial suit alleged that Author Solutions misrepresents itself as an independent publisher, luring authors in, and then profiting from deceptive and fraudulent practices, including “delaying publication, publishing manuscripts with errors to generate fees, failing to pay royalties, and up-selling ‘worthless services’ to authors.”

. . . .

 At the heart of the case is an alleged “deceptive” scheme to lure authors in with promises of sales and marketing exposure, when the “primary goal” is not to sell books, the plaintiffs argue, but to “sell services and books back to authors.” In filings, attorneys for the authors paint a picture of Author Solutions “consultants” with little or no publishing experience, selling “worthless” services to unsuspecting authors. “[Author Solutions], as part of a company-wide policy, hides from consumers that it is a telemarketing operation,” plaintiff attorneys argue, “with no stake in the quality or retail success of its authors’ books.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Dead to Rights

15 May 2015

From author Roxanne St. Claire:

About a dozen years ago, I had a conversation with a friend, and she shared a secret about an online “e-ffair” she was having with an ex.  Her story sparked the idea for a book about women who are tempted to connect with ex-lovers over the internet, something that was just coming into the social conscious at that time.  Classmates.com had just launched, but Facebook was in Mark Z’s imagination, and tweeting was still something birds did.  Email had become our main source of communication, along with a little technology we turned into a verb, as in “Let’s IM tonight.” (Instant Message, the precursor to texting.)

Hit Reply poured out of me, full of characters drawn from real life and my imagination, written entirely  in the epistolary form – all “letters” – only in this case it was emails and instant messages.  At the time, I had sold my first few romantic suspense titles and was very (very) slowly building my name in that genre.  But “chick lit” was hot, pink covers were everywhere, and Bridget Jones’ Diary was still very much the in the mainstream.  My publisher had  launched an imprint that I thought would make a good home for a story about friendship, exes, and major life changes.  They loved the concept and offered a contract, giving me a release date almost two years in the future.

. . . .

By the time that distant date came about and Hit Reply was released, chick lit was waning, and pink covers were verboten at Barnes & Noble and Borders.  I hoped for the best, but the “all email and IM” format didn’t grab attention, and neither did one of the most ill-conceived covers I personally have ever seen.  (Because everyone puts their wired mouse in their back pocket, right?)

Whatever, the book tanked.

. . . .

Fast forward (not really fast) ten years.  Forty-five books for me, several publishers, more agents than I’m proud to admit, and a healthy, sustaining career that has moved firmly and completely into indie publishing.  Still, Hit Reply is my personal favorite of all my titles, a book that truly came from my soul, and is dear to me.  It’s long out of print, but the publisher has kept it in Print on Demand for $18 for a paperback and (brace yourself) $16 for the ebook.  No surprise, it has sold four copies in the past year.

In my  burning desire to see this book published, I signed a contract that includes this line in the rights reversion clause:  “The book will be considered still in print as long it is available for purchase in any format, including electronic.”  This contract was signed in 2003.  And now, I can never, ever, ever have the rights back to my dear little book, at least not while I’m young enough to do something with them.

. . . .

It’s MY work.  They’re MY words.  These are MY characters who came from MY imagination and live in MY heart.  But, the publisher has informed me that they “don’t wish to revert THEIR rights.”  They’ve offered to do a special pricing for a short time if I would agree to promote the book.

Link to the rest at Roxanne St. Claire and thanks to Kristen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Roxanne St. Claire’s books

Judge wants $10 million set aside for possible award in Fifty Shades lawsuit

28 April 2015

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

A state district judge wants $10 million in cash or investments to be set aside for a potential award after a Tarrant County jury ruled earlier this year that an Arlington woman was cheated out of royalties from the blockbuster novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

. . . .

A Tarrant County jury in February ruled that Hayward defrauded Pedroza out of the financial windfall created by the erotic New York Times bestseller which also inspired a movie by the same name.

. . . .

Pedroza sued Hayward last year, contending that she conned her out of her rightful partnership interests in advances and royalties.

Pedroza and Hayward, who lived in Dural, a Sydney suburb, were partners in The Writer’s Coffee Shop, which started out as an online blog in 2009, along with Waxahachie resident Jennifer McGuire. Visitors to the fan-based website discussed books and wrote “fan fiction” stories.

McGuire did design work for the blog, Pedroza uploaded contributors’ writing, and Hayward worked with the authors, court records show. Later, Christa Beebe, another Arlington resident, joined and helped with marketing and distribution.

By 2010, Pedroza and Hayward had the Coffee House operating as a publishing house. And in 2011 it published Fifty Shades of Grey, a romance novel by E.L. James, a British author, as an e-book and print-on-demand full-length book.

The company published the sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, in 2011 and 2012. The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy became an online sensation, selling 250,000 copies through e-book and print-on-demand, with another 20,000 print copies.

In 2012, Random House made a deal with Hayward and James to publish the books. Pedroza received a one-time payment of $100,000 after the Random House contract was signed, but she was never told of the full terms of the transaction. Random House was not named in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit acknowledges that the two Texans — Pedroza and McGuire — and Hayward never signed a prepared partnership agreement. But in 2011, The Writer’s Coffee Shop filed a partnership income tax return, naming Pedroza as a general partner, it says.

Pedroza contended in her suit that Hayward in 2012 secretly converted the Coffee Shop into a company she alone owned. The jury determined that there was a partnership between the women. Beebe settled her claims in December in a confidential agreement.

Link to the rest at Fort Worth Star-Telegram and thanks to Suzan for the tip.

As a general proposition, if two or more people start and operate a business together, the presumption will be that they have created a partnership unless they have an agreement signed by everyone to the contrary. The presumption can be rebutted, but the individual(s) who don’t want a court to find that a partnership existed have the burden of proving the business was something other than a partnership, that a person was an employee, for example, and not a partner.

Absent evidence to the contrary, all persons who are partners are entitled to a share of partnership profits.

When there’s no partnership agreement, the way the business was run, who was paid how much, statements the parties made about the business, emails,  tax returns, etc., will be used to determine who is entitled to what percentage of partnership profits. The default presumption is that partners will divide partnership profits equally.

Partnership agreements can be very simple documents. However, without such an agreement, signed by everyone, resolving disputes over who gets the money can be very expensive.

How to Spot a Rights Grab

25 April 2015

From The Book Designer:

Writers see the warnings all the time. Watch out for rights grabs, those contracts that transfer all rights to the writer’s work to some less-than-reputable publisher or self-publishing company. Without realizing it, the writer has given away the right to publish his or her book in print, ebook, audio, app, and all future formats, in all languages, worldwide, for the life of the copyright. Heartbreaking.

. . . .

The answer, of course, is read the contract before your hit Submit.

Daunting? Not if you know where to look. Instead of starting at the beginning of the contract, go straight to any paragraph called Grant of Rights, License, Permission, or Permitted Uses, and look for these Danger Words: Assignment and Exclusive.

If you see these Danger Words, you may not need to read any further.

Assignment

Legally speaking, a publishing contract is a license, meaning permission to use. The writer continues to own the copyright. In contrast, an assignment transfers complete ownership. It is rarely appropriate in publishing or self-publishing, except for a freelance or ghostwriting project if you understand upfront you are transferring all your rights and ownership in the work.

. . . .

Section 3. Assignment. Author does hereby irrevocably assign to Company and its successors all right, title, and interest throughout the world, in and to the Approved Entries, including without limitation, any copyrights and other proprietary rights in and to the Approved Entries in any media now known or hereinafter developed, and in and to all income, royalties,damages, claims and payments now or hereafter due or payable with respect thereto, and in and to all causes of action, either in law or in equity for past, present, or future infringement of such rights.

. . . .

An exclusive license can be as bad as an assignment.

As I said, a license is permission to use only; you, the creator, retain ownership of the copyrighted work.

Licenses may be worldwide or geographically restricted, short-term or perpetual, royalty-free or royalty-paying, limited to particular media such as audio books, print, e-books, or to a particular language, and most importantly, exclusive or nonexclusive.

If you grant a non-exclusive license, then you may grant the same rights to others at the same time. If you grant an exclusive license, you are agreeing not to transfer similar rights to anyone else.

A license is similar to a lease. Imagine you are a landlord of a shopping center, and you lease shops to various tenants. Their rent is based on how much they sell. Each shop lease is like an exclusive license granted to only one user. Other licenses, such as the right to use the parking lot, are non-exclusive.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer and thanks to James for the tip.

The OP does a good job of describing typical pitfalls.

PG will reiterate Joel’s advice to read the entire contract before accepting it. Yes, it’s no fun and will take some time, but, if it’s a contract for the life of the copyright and you agree to it, you’ll be living with that contract for the rest of your life.

You don’t need to read the entire contract in order to reject it, however. You should read it before you agree to it because the whole contract needs to be right or you should reject it. In an online situation where there is no negotiation of the contract terms, you’re looking for reasons to reject the contract, not accept it. If you find a reason to reject the contract, you’re done with your reading.

Online contracts are usually easy to search if you’re reading them in a browser. You might want to search for words like exclusive, copyright, irrevocable, grant, assign, royalty-free and license. You’ll need to read what you discover to see the context of those words. If you find something you don’t like, post an online warning to your fellow writers and go back to working on your book. You don’t need to read the rest of the contract.

If this technique doesn’t raise any red flags (it’s definitely not a fool-proof solution), you’re stuck reading everything.

 

Good Agents Geek Out About Contracts

2 April 2015

From The Huffington Post:

I recently watched a video of a panel discussion from the Backspace Writers Conference video archives in which Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency, Scott Hoffman of Folio Literary Management, Suzie Townsend (then of Fineprint Literary Management, now with New Leaf Literary), and Diana Fox of Fox Literary discussed the nuances of publishing contracts.

One of the things I learned is that publishers often change their contracts to give themselves more favorable terms. Agents who are paying attention pick up on the differences and understand the ramifications. Agents who aren’t, don’t.

As an example, the agents explained how a few year ago, Simon & Schuster removed four sentences from the end of the rights reversion clause. These sentences defined the sales threshold, which states that rights will revert to the author if the number of sales drops under a specified amount. Removing these sentences meant that if the publisher also bought digital rights, the book would in effect never go out of print, and the publisher would own the rights to the work in perpetuity.

This created a furor among agents who were paying attention. But not every agent caught the change. Some even let their clients sign the contract, then had to negate that contract and start over again. And some didn’t catch the change at all, which left their authors with no possibility of ever getting the rights to these novels back.

I also learned that agents “geek out” over contracts, as one agent put it. It’s a good thing they do, because as I listened to these agents enthuse over the finer points of contract details, my eyes glazed over. Not that the panel wasn’t interesting and enlightening — it was. Rather, I quickly realized that the nuances of contracts were so not my thing — like signing up for a study course and finding out two weeks in that you have zero interest in the subject.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

If agents are so good with contracts, why do virtually all publishing contracts from Big Publishing contain provisions that are so unfair to authors, whether represented by an agent or not?

PG threw in the “virtually” in the previous sentence by way of being lawyerly. He’s never actually seen a contract from Big Publishing that did not include unfair provisions, but perhaps one exists somewhere. In a virtual universe.

PG must have forgotten to take his anti-cynicism meds this morning. He needs to go look at pictures of unicorns for a bit.

Amazon makes even temporary warehouse workers sign 18-month non-competes

30 March 2015

From The Verge:

Amazon is the country’s largest and most sophisticated online retailer, but it still runs largely on manual labor. Scattered around the country are massive warehouses staffed by workers who spend their days picking objects off shelves and putting them in boxes. During the holiday season, the company calls on a huge reserve army of temporary laborers.

The work is repetitive and physically demanding and can pay several dollars above minimum wage, yet Amazon is requiring these workers — even seasonal ones — to sign strict and far-reaching noncompete agreements. The Amazon contract, obtained by The Verge, requires employees to promise that they will not work at any company where they “directly or indirectly” support any good or service that competes with those they helped support at Amazon, for a year and a half after their brief stints at Amazon end. Of course, the company’s warehouses are the beating heart of Amazon’s online shopping empire, the extraordinary breadth of which has earned it the title of “the Everything Store,” so Amazon appears to be requiring temp workers to foreswear a sizable portion of the global economy in exchange for a several-months-long hourly warehouse gig.

. . . .

“Employee recognizes that the restrictions in this section 4 may significantly limit Employee’s future flexibility in many ways,” the agreement asserts, referencing the section containing the noncompete agreement and three other clauses. “Employee further recognizes that the geographic areas for many of Amazon’s products and services — and, by extension, the geographic areas applicable to certain restrictions in this Section 4 — are extremely broad and in many cases worldwide.”

The contract — which was obtained through applying and being accepted to a seasonal Amazon warehouse position — even includes a provision that requires employees who sign it to “disclose and provide a true and correct copy of this Agreement to any prospective new employer […] BEFORE accepting employment[…]”

. . . .

It’s unclear whether Amazon has attempted to enforce its noncompete contracts with hourly warehouse workers, and Amazon did not respond when asked about this by The Verge. But the company does have a history of aggressively pursuing such cases against white collar workers. Last year, after a former Amazon marketing manager took a job at Google, Amazon leveled a suit against him that was said to test the limits of noncompete law. The willingness of courts to validate such agreements can vary dramatically across states. But regardless of whether courts are willing to enforce them, noncompetes can still affect workers’ behavior.

. . . .

Courts are often reluctant to enforce noncompete agreements that cover the entire United States, let alone the whole world, according to Garden, who notes that the standard of “reasonableness” is the main legal test of the agreements. Yet different states have far different ideas of what counts as reasonable. (In an apparent nod to this, the Amazon contract stipulates that the signer consents that “each and every covenant and restraint in this Agreement is reasonable.”) California law bans the enforcement of noncompetes. Oregon, North Dakota, and Colorado have also enacted strict limits on noncompetes. “Then there are states like Texas and Florida and a bunch of others that are on the other end of the spectrum,” says Lobel, “that think of it as a simple contract issue, and if you sign the contract and you breach it then, well, you’ve breached the contract, and they’ll enforce it, and they’ll give injunctions quite easily.”

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Jan for the tip.

PG says the story sounds a little weird and you can count him as skeptical.

In the first place, while the laws vary from state to state, most courts considering noncompete agreements tend to apply a reasonableness test when asked to enforce them.

It’s difficult for PG to envision very many judges enforcing an 18 month noncompete agreement against a temporary warehouse worker. It’s also difficult to believe that courts would enforce a noncompete agreement prohibiting a former low-level hourly employee from working for a competitor within a large geographical area for a low level worker. As a matter of public policy, most state governments aren’t trying to prevent their residents from being gainfully employed.

In one case PG remembers, Amazon sued in Washington to enforce a non-compete against one of its vice-presidents in the Amazon cloud business who went to work for Google’s cloud business. If PG’s recollection is correct, the court hearing the case reduced the time for the non-compete from 18 months to 3 months. If the vice-president had continued to work during the litigation, the three months would have almost certainly expired before the court handed down its decision.

As mentioned, non-compete agreements are illegal in California except in very narrow circumstances. If Google had moved the VP to California and he sued Amazon in California, it is almost certain a California court would have voided the non-compete agreement and barred Amazon from enforcing it.

Additionally, there’s the practical question involved in Amazon ever discovering that one of its former warehouse employees has started working for a competitor. If you’re an Amazon vice-president that starts working for a competitor, your profile is high enough so Amazon is likely to hear about the new job. If you move from an Amazon warehouse to a Wal-Mart warehouse, the chances of being discovered are minuscule.

PG says that blanket noncompete agreements for all employees are a really dumb idea in part because gaining a reputation for suing its former employees hurts a company when it is recruiting high-quality talent. Amazon usually doesn’t do dumb things, but maybe their employment lawyers are an exception.

Sony fails to knock out 19’s Idol stars lawsuit

19 March 2015

From CMU:

Sony Music has failed to have a wide-ranging lawsuit filed by 19 Entertainment a year ago dismissed, though some elements of the case have been thrown out.

As previously reported, ‘American Idol’-owning 19 Entertainment, which also manages many of the finalists that appeared on the talent show franchise, last year sued Sony Music, which traditionally signed ‘Idol’ winners, claiming that it had found “systemically incorrect calculations” on two separate audits of royalty payments made by the major. It then added that the record company had failed to allow 19’s bean counters to access all the data they required to do a full audit.

. . . .

As previously noted, 19’s litigation includes one of the big fat debates of the moment in artist management circles, whether digital income should count as ‘licensing’ or ‘sales’ income with artist contracts that don’t specifically mention downloads and/or streams.

It’s an important distinction, because artists traditionally get a much bigger cut of the loot with licensing money that they do with sales income. Labels say that downloads and streams should be classified as sales for royalty purposes, but many heritage artists point out that what the labels negotiate with iTunes and Spotify are definitely ‘licensing deals’.

And this issue is one that will be allowed to proceed, potentially giving more court time to a dispute that has been subject to countless lawsuits and artist/label deals (some public, most under the radar), but which has generally had little judicial consideration, except in the famous FBT Productions case against Universal, which the majors have always insisted doesn’t set a precedent.

Among the other elements of the case also allowed to proceed is another favourite with artist managers and lawyers, the way labels sometimes confuse things when money moves between global subsidiaries, this time in relation to advertising spend. 19 accuses Sony of using “sleight of hand” tactics to reduce its royalty obligations to its artists.

Link to the rest at CMU

PG notes that since this case is in New York, it has the potential to provide some rulings that could impact a lot of tradpub publishing contracts.

Wheel of Time TV pilot producers sue Robert Jordan’s widow for defamation

15 February 2015

From ars technica:

The tale of the late-night Wheel of Time pilot that aired in a paid infomercial slot on FXX has taken another odd turn. Producers Red Eagle Entertainment LLC and Manetheren LLC have filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for central California against Harriet McDougal (widow of James Rigney, who wrote the Wheel of Time novels under the pen name Robert Jordan), her company, Bandersnatch Group Inc., and twenty unnamed other persons (“Does 1-20″). The suit alleges that McDougal’s statements about her lack of involvement in the pilot’s production constitute breach of contract, slander, and interference with contractual relations and prospective economic relations; the suit demands declaratory relief and a jury trial.

With the pilot coming essentially out of nowhere and airing with no fanfare, very few fans of the series were even aware of its existence until after the fact; it was clear that the production was accomplished in very little time and on a minimal budget. The resulting effort (titled “Winter Dragon”) did not resemble the series prologue very closely, and it quickly drew strong rebuke from McDougal, who claimed the pilot was made “without my knowledge or cooperation,” and that no one from Robert Jordan’s estate has been involved in any way with it. McDougal claims that Universal currently holds the rights to the Wheel of Time TV series, not Red Eagle Entertainment, and that the pilot made no mention of Universal or her own company, the Bandersnatch Group.

. . . .

All together, the suit claims that McDougal’s statement itself is defamatory and harms Manetheran and Red Eagle’s ability to do further business; that McDougal breached a nondisparagement agreement by making the statement; and that McDougal and the Bandersnatch Group are intentionally interfering with Manetheran and Red Eagle’s contractual and potential economic relationships.

Link to the rest at ars technica and thanks to Ric for the tip.

PG says the suit will make certain that even more Robert Jordan fans know about this disagreement.

Wheel of Time is the sad lesson of what can happen when you sell the rights to your books

11 February 2015

From Vox:

At 1:30 in the morning on Monday, February 9, a highly unusual program aired for a half hour on out-of-the-way cable channel FXX. Billed as Winter Dragon in some listings and The Wheel of Time in others, it was apparently a TV pilot for an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s ridiculously popular Wheel of Time fantasy series.

. . . .

The Wheel of Time is of great interest to TV fantasy fans because it has the potential to be the next Game of Thrones. Its sprawling world and gigantic cast of characters make it the natural choice for any network that might want to get in on the epic fantasy action. Plus, the pilot starred well-known actor Billy Zane. Outside of some terrible computer special effects, the production values were solid. And it was based on a beloved book series.

So why on Earth was it airing at 1:30 am on a Monday on FXX?

The answer to that has very little to do with quality control and everything to do with how TV networks and movie studios handle adaptations of popular material. The contracts governing those adaptations create situations like this all the time.

. . . .

Thanks to the huge success of HBO’s Game of Thrones, TV and film are hungry for grittier adaptations of fantasy novels, and Wheel of Time more than fits that description. Thus, an adaptation seems like an inevitability.

Or, rather, it would if a company that seemingly redefines incompetence didn’t own the rights.

. . . .

A short-lived attempt to get a series version of Wheel of Time off the ground was first made by NBC in 2000. That attempt failed, and the rights were sold by Jordan’s company, Bandersnatch Group, to Red Eagle Entertainment.

Red Eagle first exercised its adaptation rights with a comic book adaptation in 2005. In 2008, it actually got so far as to sign a deal with Universal to produce film versions of the books. (Remember Universal. Though it appears to have nothing to do with the FXX pilot, it will be important later.)

Significantly, if you go to Red Eagle’s website, which hasn’t been updated since 2009, it appears to be a company that exists solely to attempt adaptations of Jordan’s books. It’s done nothing else of note.

Wheel of Time films didn’t materialize, to Jordan’s anger and consternation. Yet Red Eagle retained the rights to the series through Wednesday, February 11, 2015, according to Jordan’s widow, Harriet McDougal Rigney.

. . . .

Thus, the pilot appears to be a bit of a rush job, created to beat the February 11 deadline. It was filmed mere weeks ago, according to its director, then rushed to air. It has every appearance of being a last-ditch attempt by Red Eagle to retain the rights to Jordan’s series.

. . . .

Most contracts between creators and those who buy adaptation rights to said creations have built-in expiration dates when the rights revert to the creator. These expiration dates vary, based on how much rights-purchasers wish to pay.

But these expiration dates also usually include a crucial caveat. If the person who buys the adaptation rights keeps making adaptations of the original property, the rights will usually stay with them.

. . . .

Rigney, Jordan’s widow, said in a statement:

It was made without my knowledge or cooperation. I never saw the script. No one associated with Bandersnatch Group, the successor-in-interest to James O. Rigney, was aware of this.

Bandersnatch has an existing contract with Universal Pictures that grants television rights to them until this Wednesday, February 11 – at which point these rights revert to Bandersnatch.

I see no mention of Universal in the “pilot”. Nor, I repeat, was Bandersnatch, or Robert Jordan’s estate, informed of this in any way.

Remember Universal? That reference to the studio may prove key. If, indeed, Bandersnatch’s adaptation rights contract was with Universal and not Red Eagle, then whatever claim Red Eagle has to the property will fall apart. If that contract was with Red Eagle directly, however, or if Universal turns out to have funded this secret pilot, things will get more complicated.

Link to the rest at Vox and thanks to Claire for the tip.

My Gravity Lawsuit and How It Affects Every Writer Who Sells to Hollywood

31 January 2015

From author Tess Gerritsen:

Yesterday, the court granted Warner Bros’s motion to dismiss my lawsuit against them. While Warner Bros crows victory, the judge has in fact left the door open for me to pursue my claim, allowing my legal team twenty days to revise our complaint and address a single issue: the corporate relationship between Warner Bros. and New Line Productions.

. . . .

In 1999, I sold the film rights to my book GRAVITY to New Line Productions. The contract stipulates that if a movie is made based on my book, I will receive “based upon” credit, a production bonus, and a percentage of net profits. The book is about a female medical doctor/astronaut who is stranded aboard the International Space Station after the rest of her crew is killed in a series of accidents. A biological hazard aboard ISS traps her in quarantine, unable to return to earth. While my film was in development, I re-wrote the third act of the film script with scenes of satellite debris destroying ISS and the lone surviving female astronaut adrift in her spacesuit.

. . . .

In 2008, Warner Bros acquired New Line Productions. The takeover was rumored to be brutal, with numerous New Line employees losing their jobs overnight.

Sometime around 2008 – 2009, Alfonso Cuaron wrote his original screenplay “Gravity” about a female astronaut who is the sole survivor after her colleagues are killed by satellite debris destroying their spacecraft. She is left adrift in her space suit, and is later stranded aboard the International Space Station. I noted the similarities, but I had no evidence of any connection between Cuaron and my project. Without proof, I could not publicly accuse him of theft, so when asked about the similarities by fans and reporters, I told them it could be coincidence.

In February 2014, my literary agent was informed of Cuaron’s attachment to my project back in 2000. Now the similarities between my book and Cuaron’s movie could no longer be dismissed as coincidence. I sought legal help, and we filed a Breach of Contract complaint that April. Please note: this is not a case of copyright infringement. Warner Bros., through its ownership of New Line, also owns the film rights to my book. They had every right to make the movie — but they claim they have no obligation to honor my contract with New Line.

This is why every writer who sells to Hollywood should be alarmed.

It means that any writer who sold film rights to New Line Productions can have those rights freely exploited by its parent company Warner Bros. — and the original contract you signed with New Line will not be honored. Warner Bros. can make a movie based on your book but you will get no credit, even though your contract called for it.

Link to the rest at Tess Gerritsen and thanks to Clair for the tip.

Here’s a link to Tess Gerritsen’s books

 

 

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