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Writing Plays/Screenwriting/Playwriting Rights Question


I want to write an adaption of a musical (Annie, to be specific) that will use the same characters, basic plot line (with VERY significant changes), and the songs (with significant lyrical changes). I can't tell you what the musical is about, but think of it as if I were to rewrite West Side Story so that the Sharks were werewolves and the Jets vampires (just an example). Would I need the full rights to acquire the sheet music and accompaniment CD? Thanks for the help!

Hi, Catherine.  I'm fully sorry for taking so long to answer your question here.  I've been taking care of my girlfriend who was in the hospital for quite awhile and she just got discharged, but still needs 24/7 monitoring at home for the next four weeks as she's recovering from a very severe illness.  I'm sorry if that was TMI but I felt I owed you an honest explanation as to why I haven't answered your question until now.  From what I know about adaptations, you need to at least get permission by the copyright owner of Annie before you make any adaptations.  When you contact said owner, he or she (or they as the case may be) may want to set up a contract with you regarding royalties and such that you may need to pay and also if you may need to buy the copyright or whathaveyou.  Each contract is different.  Most times, as far as I know about adaptations, you just need permission and then pay royalties on the income you get from your work.  The rest will depend on the contract the copyright owner wants to write up with you.  The key phrase with the contract is with you.  These types of contracts are usually negotiable between you and the copyright owner and the two of you can discuss the terms of the contract until you both work something out that is a win-win situation for all involved.  Never think you are stuck with the contract they give you.  If you feel they are forcing you to sign it without your input you may want to consult a lawyer you trust to help you through the negotiation phase.  Most likely the copyright owner will not give you a hard time about negotiating the contract and will actually respect you for wanting the negotiate and the copyright owner will respect you even more for wanting a win-win situation for both of you.  Remember.  The copyright owner is your equal.  Actually, every one is your equal.  Creating an adaptation of anything is a business partnership between you and the original creator and/or copyright owner.  Since any partnership is a sharing between equals, so is this.  I hope this helped.  

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James Edward Kelley


I cannot answer questions about writing screenplays. I can, however, answer questions about playwriting.


I won the Henry Fonda Young Playwright's Award for the first play I ever wrote. Faculty at Brown University allowed me to take free writing courses, resulting in two play commissions. I was an actor-in-residence at Brown University's Rites & Reason Theatre. I was a member of a comedy troupe called Daydream Theatre. I was a professional stage actor for a spell. I got into Mensa through my score on the Miller's Analogy Test, a verbal skills test you can take after receiving your Bachelor's Degree.


On-line literary journal, "Slurve"; "The Mensa Bulletin"

I was allowed to take free writing courses at Brown University. I'm currently enrolled in The Gotham Writers Workshop.

Awards and Honors
Henry Fonda Young Playwright's Award, nominated for Expert of the Month

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