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Entertainment Law Asked & Answered – What are Separated Rights?

In this Asked & Answered video, I answer a question about separated rights.





Hi, I'm attorney Gordon Firemark, and this is Asked and Answered, where I answer your entertainment law questions, to help you take your career and business to the next level.

The Separated Rights provision is One of the most frequently misunderstood parts of the writers Guild contract so stick around… I'll do what I can to explain.

What are Separated Rights?

Separated Rights are a group of rights that writers of original material receive under the Writers Guild of America Minimum Basic Agreement. Normally, when a Writer's Guild member is hired to write an original screen- or teleplay, he or she is an employee, so the material is a Work Made For Hire, with the copyright in that screen- or teleplay being owned by the employer.

But, the WGA negotiated for certain of the rights to be “separated” out and conveyed instead to the writer. These are the Separated Rights, and how they are handled is a little different between television and films.

Basically, a professional writer (union member) who writes an original script is entitled to keep the dramatic and publication rights in the material, as well as the right to do a rewrite And to be paid for sequels. Under certain scenarios, the writer can also re acquire the rest of the rights.

In television, the specifics are slightly different, but the same basic principles apply.

What this means is that if you're planning to produce, let's say, a stage musical based on a film, you might have to deal with the writer AND the producer of the movie.

“Why?” You ask, “would I still have to make a rights deal with the movie producer?” Well, unless your adaptation adheres strictly to the script as written by the screenwriter, it probably incorporates elements from the film, which aren't in the script. Directors, scenic designers, wardrobe, special effects, and music are all material that are protected by copyright as well, and, except in really unusual situations, belong to the producer.

So, separated rights, then, is really a way to provide the writer with some leverage, and a “second bite at the apple” if a script turns into a movie so successful that it is later adapted for the stage, or published, and so on.

If you're looking at a situation where this comes into play, you'll want to consult your entertainment lawyer, to make sure you're getting all the rights you need.

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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 viewers'’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

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