Can I do a sequel to someone else's book or movie?

Can I do a sequel to someone else's book or movie?

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Writing a sequel to a book or movie

Got the perfect idea for the next big movie or book in a series? Do you need permission to write it or can you just get going?

Do I need permission to write a sequel to a famous book or can I just write and sell it?

For any books that fall under copyright protection you need permission from the copyright holder. The holder is typically the author, the author’s family, or the book publisher. Without obtaining the rights, you cannot sell/publish a sequel.

The Good News

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That is the bad news. The good news is that for all the aspiring authors who want to write a sequel to their favorite book, there are thousands of older books with expired copyrights. Did Gregory Maguire have to get permission from the author/publisher of The Wizard of Oz? Nope, because The Wizard of Oz had been in the public domain since 1956. If the book is in the public domain with an expired copyright then you are free to write a sequel, a trilogy, a prequel, or anything else you may want to write. To determine when a copyright expires, you need to understand the a bit of copyright law (just a bit). If a work created before January 1, 1978, the work has a copyright life of 95 years from publication or 120 years from the work’s creation—whichever comes first. If the word was published in 1978 or after, and the author is named and registers with the copyright office (whether it’s his real name or a pseudonym), the copyright term for the work is the author’s life plus 70 years. Let's take The Great Gatsby as an example. Is The Great Gatsby part of the public domain? The Great Gatsby was penned by F. Scott Fitzgerald and published in 1925. Because it was published before 1978, the copyright won’t expire until 95 years after it was published. For those of you who are bad at math, The Great Gatsby will become part of the public domain in 2020. So in two short years (as of 2018) you can publish your sequel to The Great Gatsby.

Can I write the screenplay for the sequel to a movie if I didn’t write the original movie?

Bad Idea No. It’s even more inadvisable to write a sequel to a movie that you don’t own the copyrights to than a sequel book you don’t own the copyrights to. This is because of the way that much of the motion picture industry works. The full answer to this question is long and more complicated, but the short answer is that if you make a sequel to a movie without the copyrights, be prepared to get sued, lose your home, and live in a van down by the river.







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Comments

  • No, not without the permission of the entity that holds the rights to the original movie. Giving credit does not negate their right to the movie and sequels. So before you post it you would need to get permission from the movie rights holder.

    Devin Warner Miller on
  • Can you make a sequel to a movie and put it on YouTube if you give credit to the original publisher?

    EliTheGopher on

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