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I am an author who wrote a biography on a singer. I want to turn the book into a screenplay. Do I have to get permission from the singer to do this?

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IANAL but you really need to check what your contract for the biography says: you might hold the license to make the biography, but you do not hold the copyright to the life of the singer. You might need to negotiate.

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There are three possibilities:

  1. Your contract addresses this issue. Follow it. If you're not sure, ask a lawyer.
  2. Your contract does not address this issue. Go ask for permission.
  3. You somehow wrote a biography without a contract. Go ask for permission.

The next question is permission from whom:

  • There's the copyright holder first of all. That's probably you, but be certain of that.
  • There's the publisher (who you definitely have a contract with) because they will have put certain rights into the contract. One common one has to do with adaptations. They may have right of first refusal to adapt it or sell an adaptation. Or they may require a cut of the proceeds. Or something else.
  • And there is the singer. You do not need permission to write a story about a public figure. That's why there are authorized and unauthorized biographies. But it is a kindness to ask for permission (and it makes it more likely the person will cooperate with you and give you information). Especially if you already did so for the book. If you have a contract with the singer, it may stipulate that you share proceeds or something else.

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