Screenwriting, as a professional creative enterprise, is open to a lot of different legal and business hurdles because of its intermediary status. It is a creative document that actually goes through a lot of changes and then interpretation for another medium, changing the content once again. Through all of this the screenplay will go through many hands, different types of professional positions, and a lot of contracts. Here is a look at the screenplay contracts that are commonly used, and necessary for protection of your screenplay.
The most important screenplay contract of all is going to be the literary purchase and option agreement. An option is a screenplay contract that states that the sale of the rights over the screenplay has taken place and that they will be transferred from one party for another. The period of time that the screenplay option is valid is listed on the contract, and if it is not adapted or used within the specified period of time then the screenplay option runs out. They then will usually have the possibility of renewing the option for another sum of money, as the screenplay contracts state. The screenplay option will usually also list any stipulations that the original owner had, such as control over its adaptation, merchandising rights, and possibly even influence over the choice of Director. The option should always list a finite period of time for the option to be valid so that it makes sure that the screenwriter does not sell away their rights indefinitely.
Though it works different than other screenplay contracts, copyright is going to protect your screenplay from being appropriated and used by a third party. To do this you will register the screenplay with the U.S. Copyright Office, who will charge you a fee once they have accepted that it is elligible for copyright protection. Most original works are, but they want to ensure that you are not taking a work of some other creation and then registering it under your own copyright. This screenplay contract will give your script serious protection from then on as the period of copyright continues from the date that it was issued the copyright.
Submission Release Form
A submission release form is often used so that an organization, such as a literary agency or production company, can take a look at the screenplay. This screenplay contract is used really to protect the organization receiving it, so that you cannot then make claims about them violating your rights if you see similar content in one of their products. The content of the submission release form will differ upon forms, but it will usually indicate that the purpose of the release is for review, consideration, and evaluation.
One of the more specific screenplay contracts is the nondiscolure agreement, which is a business contract that is used in a whole range of fields and is common to public business practices. What the nondisclosure says is that the parties involved are not allowed to discuss the project in any way, or in the ways specified by the screenplay contract. This means that they can not mention it publicly, privately, or in business related situations so as to protect the integrity and possible financial capital of the project. This kind of screenplay contract is used when a project is meant to be secretive and possibly based around a huge opening, such as a large franchise screenplay.