Negotiating Motion Picture Rights for Your Book

A specialist in entertainment law provides insights on negotiating an option for motion picture rights to a literary work.

By Sharon L.Fjordbak, Attorney And Counselor At Law


When a motion picture production company negotiates the purchase of motion picture rights to a literary property, the "option agreement" usually is the first legal document transacted.

The production company pays an option fee from $500 to $25,000 or more for the right to purchase motion picture rights in the literary property. On average, this fee represents approximately 10 % of the purchase price.

The option lasts from six months to two years or more. At the end of the period (or a renewal option period), the company purchases specific copyrights and other proprietary rights in and to the owner's script, book, treatment or other property.

Terms and conditions of the option and purchase agreements may be incorporated as one document, or the purchase agreement may be attached to the option as an exhibit.

The key to a successful transaction is to negotiate a complete agreement; one that provides guidance for resolution of potential disputes between the parties. The parties should be completely informed as to their rights, obligations and remedies under the agreement.

Terms which are essential to the agreement are the:

grant of an option to purchase certain rights consideration paid to the property owner for the option duration of the option procedure to be followed in exercising the option

In the warranty clause of the agreement, the production company will want the owner's assurance that it will not face any third-party claims interfering with its right to produce and exploit the motion picture.

Furthermore, the owner will be expected to warrant that he or she is the sole and exclusive holder of rights in the literary property and that the property is an original work of authorship, and/or that the owner has the exclusive right to use any pre-existing works in the literary property for purposes of motion picture production.

The owner should request a clause that affords him or her an automatic option reversion and turn-around right, should the production company either fail to exercise the option right and pay the purchase price, or if the production company fails to further develop the literary property for an extended period of time (i.e., for three to five years or more).

(000496) This article is published to inform clients and other friends of legal changes in the entertainment industry. The information included is general in nature and should not be considered as legal advisory opinions.


About The Author:

Ms. Fjordbak handles matters in copyright, trademark, entertainment and computer law in Texas and New Mexico.

To contact her, write:

Sharon Fjordbak

Attorney At Law

6611 Hillcrest Avenue # 336

Dallas, TX 75205-1301