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Old December 11th, 2014, 09:01 AM   #1
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need to buy rights of sitcom scripts

A client is inquiring how to buy the rights to already produced and aired sitcom scripts. Is there any resource for something like this? Any idea on pricing and terms? I'm not looking for free scripts or unproduced material.

My client intends to translate the scripts and re-shoot them as adaptations in regional South Asian languages.

Any help would be appreciated!
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Old December 13th, 2014, 11:40 AM   #2
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Re: need to buy rights of sitcom scripts

If you have physical copies of the actual scripts (many are easily available on the web), there should be a title page on each showing the name and address of the copyright holder, just like the flypage on a book, at least for those produced in the US. This is usually the studio, production company or distributor.

If not, and you're just seeing the episodes on TV that you like, look for the logo at the end and contact them. They are the likely current rights holders or know who is.

If you are seeking US material, be prepared to pay a lot or be told no.

Most large US TV outfits have large International Distrbution divisions; my guess you'd generally make this your first stop.
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Old December 13th, 2014, 12:14 PM   #3
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Re: need to buy rights of sitcom scripts

Don't Bollywood, Hollywood, Chinese & French Cinema copy each other all the time ?

I can name so many films that have been re-done to be targeted to an audience that speak a different language. I wonder if the scripts were purchased ... (unlikely)
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Old December 14th, 2014, 12:49 PM   #4
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Re: need to buy rights of sitcom scripts

So you are advising them to violate international copyright law by using someone's else's intellectual property without permission? It's okay as long as you don't get caught?

I wonder how you'd feel if someone did that to you.
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Old December 14th, 2014, 08:07 PM   #5
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Re: need to buy rights of sitcom scripts

I agree with you, Adam.
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Old December 15th, 2014, 02:07 AM   #6
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Re: need to buy rights of sitcom scripts

How's that saying go... artists "borrow", geniuses "steal"...

I have to question how well most "sitcom" scripts would "translate" anyhow, why not just watch DVD's and borrow general ideas and apply them to the specific culture/language?

I'm not sure how much material is really "original", but seems to me it's rather silly to go buying someone else's IP with the intent to "copy" it in another culture/language... sounds like a flop waiting to happen, but there is never a shortage of bad ideas...
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Old December 15th, 2014, 02:10 AM   #7
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Re: need to buy rights of sitcom scripts

Not telling him to Violate anything.

I'm saying I highly doubt they went and asked the person that originally wrote the script that they intend to copy it ...

They just did it. And because it's in a completely different language technically speaking it's different.
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Old December 22nd, 2014, 12:03 PM   #8
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Re: need to buy rights of sitcom scripts

There's a big difference between an idea and the execution of an idea. You can't copyright an idea, but you can copyright the execution of it. The OP asked about actual scripts, which I'm pretty sure any court would consider to be the execution.

And while IANAL, I'm also pretty sure that just changing the language doesn't get you off the hook.
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Old December 22nd, 2014, 08:03 PM   #9
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Re: need to buy rights of sitcom scripts

This is not without precedent. While I don't know of any sitcom adaptation, Warner Brothers has made available rights to the prime-time TV drama "ER" for foreign adaptations. There are two of them currently in the works: in Serbia, the localised version of "ER" (same characters, same plot lines, different names, minor dialogue changes to reflect local reality) is in its first season (local name is "Urgentni centar). Colombians are also producing their own version in Spanish (having ordered 60 episodes), which will likely cover the entire Latin American market.

None of the film adaptations of foreign films (or books, or short stories, or graphic novels) is ever done without securing proper rights and paying for them. Nowhere in the world, with the possible exception of North Korea (and perhaps Cuba). The rest of the world is fairly open to cross-national commerce, and any infringement on intellectual property would be effectively and efficiently dealt with by the relevant authorities. Nobody "just went and did it"; in literally all cases where the story of a foreign film is lifted from some other film from another country, the producers have secured the rights from the proper entity (original author, agency representing him, production studio / distributor who owns the rights, whoever).
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