Saturday, March 29, 2014

Contracts -- the GLORY of knowing what to look for!

Spent five hours yesterday learning about contracts (and some stuff on copyright) with solicitor, Linda Scales at the Centre for Creative Practices. It was fascinating. Fantastic to realise how much I already know - from negotiations over the years - but wonderful to get those extra little gems.

For example, if negotiating by email, always add: subject to written agreement/ contract. Then you're not bound by what you agree until you're ready to be.

Ownership of the work is separate to ownership of the copyright. When work is commissioned, the creator retains the copyright -- unless the contract says otherwise. The commissioner merely gets a licence, express or implied.

A licence is a permission to exercise certain rights for specific purposes.

An assignment of the rights is a complete transfer but it can be for a limited period. This leads the the 'turnaround' clause I learnt the importance of many years ago -- ie if they have bought the rights to your material but haven't made the film/ tv series etc, all rights revert back to the creator after a certain period of years.

That electronic agreements seem to be as binding as signed hard copy contracts.

That you need to negotiate and specify exactly what rights you are selling -- and hold onto those you don't want to seel or can't assign a value to yet, to be negotiated at a later stage. Or work out terms by which you are willing to give them up.

Perhaps offer two price options - the cost of buyout of the rights and the cost of a licence with royalties.

Be very clear, that seems to be the message.

There is no contract if it can't be enforceable, that is if there is not a clear intent of agreement. For example, if someone says they will buy a script/ a piece of art when you're finished, if they like it, that is not a binding agreement.

There is no copyright in ideas, only in the creation of something from the idea - such as a treatment etc. Copyright is automatic in your creative work. It means you have the right to prevent exploitation of your work. The right to prevent others from :

  1. copying your work, 
  2. making the work available to the public, 
  3. distributing copies of the work or 
  4. adapting or making derivatives of the work. 

The copyright holder is entitled to control derivatives -- unless you sign them away. You can specify that the company licencing your creative material or buying some of the copyright must re-negotiate for any specific form of derivatives if you are uncomfortable giving up those rights or cannot know the value of them.

Then there was the debate re royalties versus a flat fee or a mix thereof. If the company are abroad, if if is likely to be a hassle chasing those royalties, is it worth accept a flat fee for the buyout? Aparently - and I hope I get the phrasing right here - if 11 words in a newspaper article are re-used in a piece by another author that reflect the reporters original creative intention, then that - according to some recent case - is regarded as "a substantial part" and an infringement of copyright.

And there was tons more. I also came away with templates for contracts for most anything I might ever need.

Now all I need is someone to offer me a contract so I can dig my teeth in and test what I know!

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