Own-it | Intellectual Property Know-How for Creative Businesses


Who owns the copyright to a film script?

Published 01.11.08 at 09:30

Joint-authors of film scripts are treated in law as being joint-owners of the copyright in the film script (which can be both a literary and dramatic work). The problem is proving that you are the joint-author of the film script.  

The law looks at whether both authors have

(i) contributed to an original work,

(ii) whether there is collaborative activity, and

(iii) finally, whether both contributions merge to form a single work. Under English law joint-authors are entitled to equal royalties (e.g. 50% each for two authors), unless an agreement states otherwise.

Practical steps: To avoid later difficulties, ensure from the outset that you enter into a written collaboration agreement that clearly states that you are creating the film-script with your partner as joint-authors and that you are joint-copyright owners.

See the document, 'Acknowledgment of joint ownership of intellectual property' in Contracts.  

The agreement should also deal with such issues as:

  • each author's contribution to the film-script, including deadlines
  • what occurs in the event of one of the authors fails to meet their obligations
  • how the film script is going to be marketed and sold
  • each author's percentage of royalties for the licensing/sale of the script.

Content supplied by Daniel McClean. Photo credit: Mooganic


Please note that this article discusses the legal position in the UK at the time of publication. It provides general information only but is not to be regarded as legal advice. You must take advice from a specialist lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Further, you should seek additional legal advice when dealing with parties based in other parts of the world or works originating from other parts of the world as the legal position may vary.


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