inTouch: Cloud of Doubt Hangs Over Social News Site Movie Deal
October 24, 2011 by Jada.Bradley
The publishing landscape is a new frontier with a lot of great opportunities, but as we noted last week (Amazon E-Book Stirs Jealousy and a Writer Loses her Book Contract), some folks get into unexpected skirmishes because the frontier has hazy boundaries. Sometimes someone will tell you that you have crossed the line in the sand, but at other times, a deal may go through before someone thinks to question its validity.
This is what has happened with a series of short stories that were published through Reddit and snapped up by Warner Brothers.
Getting the attention of a movie studio was probably a dream come true for James Erwin, “a largely unknown author who successfully got Warner Bros. to buy movie rights to his story about what would happen if U.S. Marines traveled back in time to fight the Roman Empire.”
If you don’t know, Reddit it is a social news site (owned by Condé Nast). On Reddit, users can post articles and blog posts and take part in discussions and vote on these submissions. Many of us participate in social networking and social news websites, paying little attention to all the legalese that is put before us when we first sign up. Like many sites of its kind, Reddit lets its users know that by posting, they are giving Reddit the right to license the content posted as it chooses.
So the controversy over who owns the rights to the “Rome, Sweet Rome” stories lies not only in the fact that Warner Brothers bought these rights from Erwin, but also because the movie studio has said it has “exclusive” rights to the stories. Although this has been questioned, Warner Brothers maintains its position and Reddit has not announced any intention to assert its rights. TechDirt muses, “it certainly would be interesting and amusing to see what would happen if Reddit tried to license the same rights to a competing studio.”
Unlike Kiana Davenport, who lost a publishing contract because her publisher felt that publishing an Amazon e-book violated the terms she agreed to, Reddit did not go after Erwin; seems as if other people started to question the deal Erwin made with Warner Brothers.
In cases like these, the speculation over who owns what, one thing is clear: the content creator(s) (originators?) most certainly do not own the creative works that they have shared. In Erwin’s case, he created the stories, but he did get input from fellow Reddit users.
While examining the Reddit controversy at Hollywood Reporter, Eriq Gardner spoke with Denise Howell, an intellectual property lawyer, who pointed out that Twitter users could get caught up in the same issue because where the micro-blogging company once “used to expressly disclaim rights to user submissions,” it now lets users know that sending a tweet gives Twitter the right to sub-license, use, or copy it.
Socialtimes.com advises: “Most of the stuff that we post online these days is just for fun or for personal use and copyright isn’t so much of an issue. However, if you are dealing with property that you created, whether it be a story like James Erwin’s, photographs, animation, video or anything else, it’s important to keep these licensing issues in mind as things can get pretty tricky.”
Do restrictive content rights make you think twice before you post something online? Post your Thoughts below.
READ a Screenrant.com interview with James Erwin.
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About The Author:
Jada Bradley (jadabradley.com) is a Washington DC-based writer and educator who enjoys telling stories in formal and informal ways. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and online. She holds Masters in Spanish Translation and is a great supporter of creative expression in the various forms it takes. She also writes about local cultural events as D.C. Cultural Events Examiner for Examiner.com. Her blog, In Other Words, can be found at inotherwordz.blogspot.com.