"So for 18 months after you create a project at Amazon Studios, you cannot display, sell or license your script or test movie elsewhere, or withdraw it for any reason. However, when the option term ends, if we haven't exercised our option and purchased your work, you will get back non-exclusive rights to your original material."
This is an insult to screenwriters. I hope people don't post their scripts on a whim (as I might have) without reading the TOS carefully. Amazon wants to option scripts for free. The problem here is 18 months of exclusivity... for free. Normally options are paid. Writers do not give anyone exclusive rights to anything for free. TOS needs to change ASAP. I was really exited about amazon studio and this is a ridiculous term is in the fine print.
No serious writer would should consider giving away exclusive rights for free.
Also in the general rules, anyone can change your material or do what they want with it without any compensation to you. They say it can't be helped if something "similar" comes along after you've posted your work. Also, if you read further, it states that they are allowed to change the prize amount if they determine that more than one person deserves the money, or they have the right to award no money if they see fit. Their rules make for some interesting reading! I would never submit anything here!
More than that, you give up many non-exclusive rights to your script in perpetuity. Also, Amazon Studios owns the rights to any revisions other people post, meaning you'd be legally forbidden from incorporating them.
So, even after the free 18 month option lapses, your script will forever have this contract attached to it which will likely make it toxic to just about any studio or production company you might try to sell it to.
The smartest thing would be to send the scripts privately. That way, no one is terrified of their idea being stolen. Out in the open is ridiculous.
I was afraid Amazon would get greedy with the TOS ... which they have. A similar situation prevails at createspace (the Amazon print on demand subsidiary). You are never allowed to completely delete a book published through createspace from their system and, if you use a createspace ISBN, they retain certain residual rights in perpetuity.
Agree with other posters who said posting a screenplay to this contest makes it toxic. You'll never be able to later sell that script due to the problem with retained rights by Amazon. That's on top of the free 18 month option.
Yes, this makes sense: if Amazon maintains distribution rights and others have tampered with your script. other producers would avoid it for fear of legal entaglements. With 20 writers claiming ownership, it's a legal mess. Warner Brothers would not likely produce a conflicted material. The whole approach is unworkable. The Amazon concept needs further development, and the Amazon legal team has to stay within some industry norms. I hope the concept evolves into something real that excites screenwriters, not this noodnick stuff they offered. It's only a first draft, and like screenplays it needs more development.
I'm not an entertainment attorney, but I don't think the interpretation of the Amazon option here is correct, nor the consequence of films or subsequent versions of the script. Everything created on this site, based on your original screenplay, is a derivative work. If Amazon does not exercise their option to purchase your script, all the derivative works are worthless and cannot be commercialized without your permission. The person with the most to lose is the filmmaker or writer that creates anything based on a script other than their own. Near as I can tell, they have no commercial rights if the option is not exercised. That's why I wouldn't just start investing time and effort on a script unless I spoke to the writer and had agreed to collaborate. Regardless of what Amazon says, collaboration starts with a real conversation.
Secondly, free or near options happen all the time. Welcome to the business in 2010. With tight limits being put on development dollars, producers get free options from first time writers all the time. It sucks, but it's true. Even seasoned writers often forgoe option dollars and sign shopping agreements with producer while they try to package projects.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I read a lot about unique ideas / scripts being compromised by putting them out in the open. Honestly, I think that is a big mistake. As a writer, your IP is your ability to execute against an idea, not just conjure one. One of the most common things a development executive will say after a pitch meeting is "that's a great idea, but it's all in the execution." And while it's frustrating, it's true. A great idea isn't a great script. And so much of what makes a great script rests in the execution. If you think about it that way, you realize being a professional screenwriter isnt about selling scripts but getting paid to write (execute). Write a lot and help people fall in love with the way you write and think. It's a script, not a lottery ticket - you can make more!
I'll take it one point further: As far as Hollywood comedy is concerned, the script is almost the last consideration. Here's the Hollywood approach: Get a an SNL or TV personality and let them write with their friends, or direct with material of their choice, even if the material isn't funny, original, or includes low brow fart jokes, etc. It's called schtick comedy. Here's your money, do your schtick. The surprise is there's a market for schtick, bad is good. But really it's isn't good because it brings the bar down so low and too often completely misses artistically. It's ruining the genre of comedy, and generally producing low grosses at the BO, making Hollywood execs think comedy can't produce better box office.
Agree, Richard. No money options are standard for new writers. If the producer has a track record, it's tough to mess up a deal asking for $500-1,000 when you could be looking at getting that all-important first screen credit.
Good point, Michael. CONCEPT is key. It could be Amazon is looking more for unique high concepts rather than execution. Or... they could want both.
Likely be 3,000-4,000 projects on here by the end of January -- if not more.
>>I'm not an entertainment attorney, but I don't think the interpretation of the Amazon option here is correct, nor the consequence of films or subsequent versions of the script. Everything created on this site, based on your original screenplay, is a derivative work. If Amazon does not exercise their option to purchase your script, all the derivative works are worthless and cannot be commercialized without your permission.<<
I am a lawyer (24 years) and what you said is not true. Read section 6.1.2, middle of section.
"The rights you grant in this Section 6.1.2 to make distribution-related modifications to your Original Property and Derivative Works to facilitate distribution and exploitation, which are perpetual, are distinct from the rights you grant us in Section 6.1.1 to create Derivative Works during the License Period. "
You may read section 6.1.2. and come to a different conclusion but the damage is already done solely by clouding the issue. They claim the right to "exploit" derivative works after the end of the option period. The Amazon TOS purport to give perpetual rights to Amazon over any work submitted to Amazon studios. As such, the mere fact that you submitted a script to Amazon studios devalues it extensively. I'd argue that you the author won't be able to later sell a script with the Amazon Studios TOS taint. We'll see how it plays out by Amazon threw a big log under the feet of authors.
THANK YOU!!!! I was all gun ho for this until I read how much they hold and for how long, without any compensation for you. I don't know if I even want to shoot something over now because of that.
Screenwriting U has an open letter to Amazon. Changes may take place. Then ... we go from 1,000 entrants to 10,000 in a week...
A Participant says:
The T.O.S. is rediculous as I now understand it, and what's more rediculous is the inability to remove a project.
I submitted my project but I misunderstood the T.O.S. regarding what basically equates to a free 18-month option period - and I previously assigned option rights to another party, so as I see it, this Amazon Studios agreement is null and void.
I didn't have the rights to assign to them under a previous agreement - so Amazon will have to deal with that. If they wrote the T.O.S. clearly and presented this opportunity correctly instead of mixing it and confusing it with their contests, then perhaps I wouldn't have made the mistake.
I thought this was a typical contest with the possibility of a paid option down the road, not an exclusive "we lock it up for 18 months" kind of deal. Too bad I didn't have the rights to grant them to begin with.
Hey Amazon Studios - delete my account cause it's worthless.
What if you have producers already attached to a project? Can you still submit it to Amazon Studios? What happens if someone who read your script prior to you submitting it to Amazon, now expresses interest in being involved? Can they "co-produce" with Amazon Studios and Warner Brothers?
I guess we'll just have to see how it goes. Maybe the naysayers will eat their words and maybe they won't. Only time will tell. I can't wait to read the winning scripts.
This debate never ceases to amaze me.
M Sweeny Carey
@ M. Sweeny
I'm sayin'. It's like...Just DON'T do it!
The anti-Nike commercial.
Amazon Studios - If you don't like the TOS...Just DON'T do it!
@KL & Michelle
Is it Ground Hog Day?
My interpretation of 6.1.2 is that it is not the right to distribute and exploit that is granted in perpetuity. Rather it is the right to modify the property to facilitate distribution and exploitation that is forever. The last sentence further clarifies this by drawing a distinction between the rights to modify during the license period and beyond the license period.unless Amazon exercises it's option rights during the 18 month period no commercial gain can be had by anyone other than the owner of the original rights. If this were not the case there would be no purpose for an options clause .
Hi guys. I have just read through all the discussion about Amazon in these post for the first time. I know there had been grumbling of concern about the screenplays everyone’s putting up but haven’t thought enough about it to say anything. But seeing so many are concerned I decided to put my two-cents in.
This writing is a very tough business. I’ve been doing it for 11 years now and have won 1 competition, been a finalist, semi-finalist, quarter-finalist many times. I sold 1 (one) screenplay outright when the opportunity came up (not for a lot of money but ok) because I got tired of being told everyone and their brother wanted it and not being able to get that in print on a contract; and I had one other option for a year that paid nicely upfront but was not picked back up when the option ended.
If you have a screenplay that you market and put in competition for an entire year and nothing happens good with it then you can consider that screenplay dead. It “ain’t” goin’ nowhere. But if that screenplay has done well in more than a couple of competitions then that tells you people think it’s pretty good, just not good enough. So you take from that and make it better while you write a new one that’s better than the last and you start over.
Amazon is giving everyone here a chance to make money and get noticed without charging them a dime. If nothing happens you’ve lost nothing, but if you get lucky (which I believe is 99% of being a produced writer) then you’ve hit gold for doing nothing more than taking one of your scripts that you knew wasn’t going to get picked up for various reasons and put it into competition. That’s not to say give them “your best” right out of the gate. I’ve held my best work out because if my latest screenplay which will hit competition in the new year “makes it” then the “almost” made its will get another look from that producer (s). Because the first thing an agent or manager is going to ask you is “what else do you have.” And they’re not going to ask you that unless they think they can move the one they’ve called you about. The producer fits in that as well because they’re not paying unless they think they have a money maker and if they’ve got a money maker they want the one that wrote it under their wing for down the road. So if my latest screenplay goes nowhere then after seeing how things proceed on Amazon (because it’s all so new we just don’t know) I’ll more than likely take one that I know has a better chance of winning and place it in competition here without worrying one bit about it.
So unless you’re in constant touch with Hollywood producers and agents and your work is getting read I can’t see why anyone would be concerned at all with an 18 month free option that has a chance at 620 K for doing nothing at all but being a writer.
That’s my two-cents.
I disagree with some of what you say. FIrst in my opinion, the idea is everything. Everything stems from that. Look at Ground Hog Day. The great thing about that movie is the idea. It's totally original. Adam Sandler liked it so much he copied it in one of his movies. And that is one of the problems with Amazon Studios, even when you submit privately--they still will put the idea out there for people to comment on. In the future I may decide to use my idea for a book or something else, but once it's out there in front of thousands of people, it's gone. I will gladly submit to Amazon when they make 'private' really private and are not showing it to every Tom, Dick and Spielberg.
The whole thing seems spooky. I was about to post a multi award winning script for consideration until I read the fine print. And while I still don't understand some of it, it bothered me enough to back away from the enter key. I am in touch with Hollywood producers. I have 20 film writing awards from 5 different scripts. And I have another 5 scripts in the making that are just as good. I value my property and the energy I put into creating these scripts. They are my babies. And while they haven't made me rich (yet!), they do make me proud. And while I think Amazon puts some impressive bait on the hook, it seems a pretty poisoned hook. I'm not biting down on this thing.