From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:
I just had the most illuminating conversation. I had been consulting with someone about one of the TV deals I’m currently negotiating. I had run into a situation I had never encountered before, and I needed help evaluating it.
. . . .
The expert I consulted, gracious and interesting, had a lot to say about a lot of things. He gave me tips that are too on-point for my negotiations to share here.
And then he said something that scared the crap out of me.
Once a big company, studio, or someone with too much money has an option on your book, that organization will often register the copyright.
Initially, I was unconcerned when he said that, because, as I told him, the first thing I do when anyone connected to the film and TV industry comes knocking is this: I register my copyright with the U.S. Copyright office. If I answer someone’s email, it’s guaranteed that before I do, my work is registered.
If you don’t understand the value of registration, when it’s needed and when it’s not needed, then get yourself a copy of the Copyright Handbook from Nolo Press, and read the damn thing from cover to cover. I am not answering basic copyright questions here, although I did address some on a post some time ago. I also addressed a lot of copyright issues in my book on contracts and dealbreakers from last year.
It doesn’t matter if your copyright is registered, the expert said. They’ll register anyway, even before they’ve started production on anything. The strategy is to create confusion over who owns the copyright, and it’ll take litigation to straighten that confusion out.
The best thing I could do, he said, was to make sure that any agreement I have with anyone had an active termination date in which all rights reverted to me without me taking an action at all. What does that mean?
Instead of calling this a termination clause, he called it a snap-back. If the person I’ve negotiated with doesn’t have a screenplay by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. If there’s no principal photography by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. If the movie has not been made by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. And so on, and so forth.
Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Colleen for the tip.
Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.