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Asked & Answered: The collaborator who didn’t.

Q: Do I have to share my Author/Writer Credit with someone who collaborated on the script, even if he never wrote one word or typed one keystroke on the script?

A: This comes down to the terms of your agreement with the  collaborator, and to the definition of “collaborated”.    Most dictionaries refer to collaboration as “working together”, without reference to the specific nature of such work.  Many writing teams share the work of ‘creating' ideas, coming up with dialogue, plot lines, etc.,  while only one member handles the ‘data entry' part of the task.  So, it's not enough to claim that your collaborator didn't write or type anything… if he or she contributed material to the finished product, in the form of intellectual ‘work' then shared credit is appropriate.

BUT, if your collaborator didn't do ANYTHING at all, it's a different story.  This, then, comes down to a breach of contract.  Presumably, the agreement between the collaborators was to share the work (regardless of the actual division of labor).  If one member failed to meet this obligation, then there's an argument to be made that credit should not be shared.

Now,  for writers who are members of WGA,  shared credit is a trickier issue, often involving subsequent rewrites by other writers, and ultimately, it's the producer and the WGA's credit arbitration panel who decide who gets credit.    For a good discussion of the credit arbitration process, see the May 2010 issue of Script magazine.

Either way, sharing credit may be preferable to the battle that can ensue when a collaborator feels he's been unfairly deprived  of  credit.  It's unwise, therefore, to proceed without some clear resolution of the matter BEFORE the script is sold.   I've personally represented several creators in disputes over credit.  Sometimes such suits have actually derailed the sale or production of the script(s) in question.  Before deciding to exclude a collaborator's credit, it's wise to check with your lawyer about the situation and get some good advice.

This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for readers’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

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