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Old January 19th, 2009, 10:21 AM   #1
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Basing a film on a book?

What sort of legal issues should a person be concerned with when making a film based on a book, or even another movie, etc... Especially if they take a few snippets of dialogue from the book, while the rest is re-written.
Also What if you take tons of quotes to use for your own story? Has anyone seen "Ghost in the Shell: Innocence" -I would think that half of that movie was quoted from books. Is that plagiarism?
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Old January 19th, 2009, 11:05 AM   #2
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What sort of legal issues should a person be concerned with when making a film based on a book, or even another movie, etc... Especially if they take a few snippets of dialogue from the book, while the rest is re-written.
Also What if you take tons of quotes to use for your own story? Has anyone seen "Ghost in the Shell: Innocence" -I would think that half of that movie was quoted from books. Is that plagiarism?
You'll have to take out an option on the book (or the script of the movie you're re-making) then pay for the film rights once the film goes into production. Basically you're using the story in the book, the dialogue always gets re-written - even if you've written an original script it gets changed, just the nature of the process.

Not having seen "Ghost in the Shell: Innocence" I can't comment. I suspect it may depend if the book is still in copyright and how long the quote is (fair use), but a lawyer would need to check it. Plagiarism is taking material without acknowledging it and saying it your own work.

If this material is used in a manner that's new and original, but acknowledges that the quotes are from other works that isn't plagiarism.
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Old January 19th, 2009, 01:32 PM   #3
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It would help if we knew what kinds of scenes you are talking about. I know you are probably uncomfortable revealing what you are doing, but if you can create some analagous situations we can probably guide you through it a bit better.

Ripping off dialogue here and there is fine - ripping off entire scenes isn't. That is, unless the book you are using is over 75 years old, in which case, it's in the public domain and can be used freely.

The dialogue doesn't always get changed. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for Room With A View and Howard's End, won in large part because she didn't change the dialogue. I'm working on a Huckleberry Finn project right now where virtually every line of dialogue is exactly as it was written in the book. It just depends upon the nature of the original dialogue, how that dialogue matches up with the level of theatricality you envision for your project and how skillful the screenwriter is.

I have seen Ghost In The Shell, but it's been years. What books or type of books do they rip off?
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Old January 19th, 2009, 02:27 PM   #4
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Anything here is viable as a source: Main Page - Gutenberg

It's all out of copyright and is now considered public domain. I think you'll want to read the project gutenberg's disclaimers and attribution rules.
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Old January 19th, 2009, 05:02 PM   #5
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The dialogue doesn't always get changed. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for Room With A View and Howard's End, won in large part because she didn't change the dialogue. I'm working on a Huckleberry Finn project right now where virtually every line of dialogue is exactly as it was written in the book. It just depends upon the nature of the original dialogue, how that dialogue matches up with the level of theatricality you envision for your project and how skillful the screenwriter is.
True dialogue doesn't always get changed, but it commonly is for various reasons.

It would be interesting to know if you're still keeping the "N" word in Huck Finn.
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Old January 20th, 2009, 03:25 AM   #6
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absolutely, I'm keeping it in there. How else do I define what it is Jim is running away from? Most of the slave owners in Huck Finn are decent people - except for the fact that they own slaves. Widow Douglas is kind to Jim, and he does not act out against her until her sister decides to sell him away from the region and he would lose contact with his family.

The problem with doing a story about slavery is the dual universes that must be manifest on screen. Even if a slave owner is a conscientious and considerate human being, that does not mean that the slave is not in terror every time their six year old acts up. the fact that any given slave owner is genuinely kind and caring, does not mean that the slaves they own do not live with the reality that their entire world can shattered at any moment. And in the novel Huck Finn, we see that happen when the two con men sell the slaves away that have lived with the family for many, many years. Getting those two universes on screen is the challenge of Huck Finn and the n word is emblematic of that reality.
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Old January 20th, 2009, 06:26 AM   #7
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absolutely, I'm keeping it in there. How else do I define what it is Jim is running away from?
Good, I gather it has been removed from some versions of the book.
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Old January 29th, 2009, 10:16 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Lori Starfelt View Post
It would help if we knew what kinds of scenes you are talking about. I know you are probably uncomfortable revealing what you are doing, but if you can create some analagous situations we can probably guide you through it a bit better.

Ripping off dialogue here and there is fine - ripping off entire scenes isn't. That is, unless the book you are using is over 75 years old, in which case, it's in the public domain and can be used freely.

The dialogue doesn't always get changed. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for Room With A View and Howard's End, won in large part because she didn't change the dialogue. I'm working on a Huckleberry Finn project right now where virtually every line of dialogue is exactly as it was written in the book. It just depends upon the nature of the original dialogue, how that dialogue matches up with the level of theatricality you envision for your project and how skillful the screenwriter is.

I have seen Ghost In The Shell, but it's been years. What books or type of books do they rip off?
I wonder if I can directly quote philosophers.
I guess the "Ghost in the Shell 2: innocence" movie used old proverbs or something... I'm not sure?? One line was "you can send a donkey around the world but he'll still return an ass." That's the only one I remember because I think it's funny, but the other lines where not comical and were said in a way that made me assume it was not original dialogue.
I wish someone had seen it, because it's exactly what I'd like to do.
So for Huck Finn you have to pay for the rights? If I were to do a book it would be one like that, where you wouldn't want to change the dialogue unless you need to.
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Old January 29th, 2009, 10:53 AM   #9
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Twain's works are in the public domain.
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Old January 29th, 2009, 02:22 PM   #10
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If the book is over 75 years old, then you do not

need to worry about the rights - it's in public domain and you can use it all you want. Any text that was published for the first time over 75 years ago can be used freely. I don't have to pay any rights for Huckleberry Finn but I want to use something written by Garrison Keilor, then i have to pay for it because that is contemporary.
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