How to use someone else's script

Any video is based on a script. The script is written by an individual who owns the copyright. Therefore, when using the script, you must respect copyright and agree with the scriptwriter about its use. This article reveals the legal ways to formalize the relationship between the creator of the entire video (producer) and the screenwriter.


What rights should be obtained

What is an exclusive right?

The video clip belongs to audiovisual works. Such an object is the result of creative work, therefore, the content will be based on some original idea. This idea is likely to be expressed in the script. In this case, the script is an independent object of copyright. This means that it is protected, and the screenwriter owns the copyright (paragraph 2 of article 1263 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation). Among copyrights, the exclusive right should be distinguished. Its owner determines how his work can be used. Therefore, by negotiating with the screenwriter, you will talk about the fate of exclusive rights.  

Do you need to get consent: an idea or a scenario?

The idea itself is not subject to copyright protection, but the plot can be protected. The idea itself can be boiled down to one or two sentences. It seems clear that films about love, revenge or war can use the same idea, but they have different plots. This distinction can be illustrated by the example of photographs. For example, if a photographer has taken a bottle of water, other photographs of the same bottle will not infringe his copyright.

However, if we are talking about a script, plot or character, then it is worth thinking about the proper design of the transfer of rights. 

Who to negotiate with about obtaining rights?

Copyright arises initially from the author, in the case of writing a script, the same thing happens. The exclusive right belongs to the screenwriter, so the relationship will be built between one or more screenwriters and the producer.   

If the script is based on any literary work, then you need to agree with the author of this work. The scenario will represent the processing of such a work, that is, it will be derivative (Art. 1260 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation). The creation of a work on the basis of someone else's does not exempt from the observance of the rights of the copyright holder of the original work.

Methods of transfer of rights

There are several ways to achieve the goal of obtaining exclusive rights to the script. It is worth remembering that there is the possibility of concluding a mixed contract. That is, these agreements will include elements of various agreements. Therefore, regardless of the name of the treaty, it may include provisions for the exclusive rights of the script.

License agreement

When concluding a license agreement, the exclusive right is transferred with restrictions. Therefore, when transferring exclusive rights to someone else's script, a specific goal will be provided: the use of a script for a specific film. More details about this agreement can be found in another article.  

This model is implied by law for scripts not created for a specific film. 

Agreement on the alienation of rights

This agreement implies the absolute transfer of exclusive rights without any restrictions. If the script is created specifically for video, then the contract will be considered exactly as about the alienation of exclusive rights (clause 1 of Art. 1240). Otherwise, they must explicitly provide that the agreement is licensed and definitely prescribe restrictions.

The specifics of the contract with the producer can be found in another article from our lawyers.

Reward for using someone else's script

The methods of remuneration are the same for both contracts. 

  • One-time payment;
  • Periodic payments, referred to as lump-sum payments;
  • Profit (royalty) percentage;
  • A combination of these methods;
  • When concluding a mixed contract, they are included in the total cost of the contract (А40-196239 / 2016)

The absence in the contract of provisions on remuneration leads to the non-conclusion of the contract, therefore, the non-receipt of rights to the script. 

Obtaining exclusive rights to the script is a mandatory step in creating a video. In this case, it is necessary to agree on the presence or absence of restrictions in the contract, the method of remuneration. If the script is based on someone else's work, then this is also worth considering and contacting the author.


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