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Lawyers come! Does the content of a book affect its legal standing beyond the public domain?

Ban

Troglodytic Trouvère
Article Team
Out of sheer curiosity, does anyone know if wishes explicitly expressed in a work are legally binding beyond the end of one's copyright? If for example I wrote "Hollywood is never allowed to adapt this book" would that have any legal standing in court (specifically US in this case) or do you reckon that would be rendered null before a judge? Again, this is just out of curiosity. I'm not terribly concerned over what happens many, many millennia from now... or decades if we still haven't fixed the longevity question by then.
 

Queshire

Auror
I'm not a lawyer, but as far as I'm aware that wouldn't do anything.

There's a reason Disney's pushed to stretch copyright length longer and longer.
 
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CupofJoe

Myth Weaver
Again not a lawyer...
But isn't copyright is about ownership and control, not the author's wishes or intent?
As I see it whoever gets/inherits the copyright can do whatever they like with it, unless they have agreed to limitations before the author/creator's death.
A sort of inverted prenup.
 
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pmmg

Myth Weaver
I think you would need an estate plan, and your descendants would have to honor it. Sooner or later, no one will care, but it will probably always be in the wiki articles that you did such.
 
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Copyright is a slippery ugly thing as in does it actually even exist? Probably not.

But you writing something like that in your book is likely so deter a Hollywood director, especially if a book has a high enough fan base, adapting it into film against the authors wishes is one thing, but to do it against its fans wishes is probably creative suicide. Either that or it becomes more tantalising.

But will your words be legally binding? Probably not no. Copyright law also differs from country to country, never mind the whole stealing thing.

There’s the other uglier thing too when a book becomes a ‘loose inspiration’ for a screen adaptation, with Luke Jennings as one example with his Codename Villanelle series, which was adapted into a series with stupendous success, but see now the series gets rated as better than his original books and while sure, he’s sold far more books than he ever did before, his original book series now gets called sexist. Personally while I think series one of Killing Eve has its merits with it being bold, brilliant and subversive as it is, that’s because Phoebe Waller Bridge wrote it (and then the others writers went and ruined it) but I actually prefer the book series, which is an entirely different beast from the screen adaptation.

But you see, it’s complicated.
 
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pmmg

Myth Weaver
Out of sheer curiosity, does anyone know if wishes explicitly expressed in a work are legally binding beyond the end of one's copyright? If for example I wrote "Hollywood is never allowed to adapt this book" would that have any legal standing in court (specifically US in this case) or do you reckon that would be rendered null before a judge? Again, this is just out of curiosity. I'm not terribly concerned over what happens many, many millennia from now... or decades if we still haven't fixed the longevity question by then.

In direct answer to this question (which I missed), No, they would not be legally binding. It would not even make it to court. Once copyright expires, it enters public domain.
 
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Penpilot

Staff
Article Team
I can't remember the specifics, but I remember reading about an author that had explicit instructions that all their unsold/unfinished works were to be burned upon their death. Instead, those who controlled their estate started to publish them.
 
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Rexenm

Inkling
I’ve got this thing bout verbatim. I imagine a lot of places consider that legally binding. Like having something removed, that is usually its purpose, and for all the reasons for that to happen.

But if it is in the case of withholding something, that I find trouble with. It is like a chicken’s wish bone, one dreams of all that, wish upon a star etc, but it is legally binding once it snaps. There is no messing with the fantasy element here.

As for holistic reasons, and royalty and all that - that is messing with the fantasy element, so probably they can wave a wand, or utter a word, in your favour.
 
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Once a work has entered public domain I don't think there's anything you can do to protect it anymore. Public domain means anyone can do anything they want with it (like create a Winney the Pooh horror movie). After all, it would be as simple as publishing the work without said comment that Hollywood wouldn't be allowed to adapt the work, and then using that as the basis for the movie.

And I think Rings of Power is a pretty clear example that money trumps listening to fans. So don't expect any protection from them once a big corporation thinks there's money to be made.

Before the work is in public domain, you can say what can and can't be done with a copyrighted work. However, you would need to explicitly mention it in your will. Just writing it in the book would not count as legally binding. Though it could result in expensive, decades long legal battles between your heirs. For an example, see: Adam Yauch's Will Prohibits Use of His Music in Ads

Of course, there's always the question about who is going to enforce it. Your children may care enough about your artistic vision to do what it says in the will. But would your grandchildren? Or their children? Would they find some way around it when a producer waves a big fat check at them? 70 years is a long time...
 
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Ban

Troglodytic Trouvère
Article Team
I can't remember the specifics, but I remember reading about an author that had explicit instructions that all their unsold/unfinished works were to be burned upon their death. Instead, those who controlled their estate started to publish them.
That would be Kafka. His example didn't cross my mind. Good recollection.
 

Ban

Troglodytic Trouvère
Article Team
So in summary, a devoted fanbase, a dedicated estate and good-will from connections up high in certain nations are the deterrents we can think of. I reckon this is right, though I do wonder if a targeted statement on paper might at least be enough to permit for a lengthy trial. If one stalls the opposition long enough, perhaps that could form another deterrent in this hypothetical. Of course, that would all rely on someone long after your death caring enough to bring forth and carry out such a case. There's no way to enforce that.... yet. Could be a good basis of a short story where an author programs a robot or computer program to file and follow through with a court case the moment his copyright runs out :p
 
Yes but the real question is what mode of immortality will you take? …vampiric? Elven? Maybe you should consult your immortality thread.
 

Queshire

Auror
Now this might be an unpopular question considering current company, but I wonder if we should want to extend protections. Sure, I wouldn't want some massive corporation wrapping their boney little claws around my stuff and sitting on it, but if copyright ended after 20 years? 10? Hell yeah, my children. Be free and grow in the marketplace of ideas like the scrubby little weeds you are. If you're lucky maybe you'll get the Sherlock Holmes treatment.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
Even with copyright, you really dont have all that much protection. It would be easy to take your stuff, have someone rewrite all the words and put it up. A big company could afford a legal battle and you….
 
I can't remember the specifics, but I remember reading about an author that had explicit instructions that all their unsold/unfinished works were to be burned upon their death. Instead, those who controlled their estate started to publish them.
Might've been Orwell. He tried to buy up all remaining stock of his earlier books after the success of Animal Farm (to have them destroyed) and forbade their publication after his death.

His wishes were observed for a while but his estate eventually bowed to public (and publisher) pressure and the old books were back in print. (I especially love Keep the Aspidistra Flying)

As for the OP... I'm an Australian lawyer and that sentence (in Oz) would do nothing except perhaps as Finch pointed out on a practical level. You might want to look up articles on Steal This Book.
 
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Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
If you put the copyright into a trust you could set rules for that trust which would apply for as long as it owned the copyright.

Once the copyright ends, it enters the public domain, and anything goes.
 
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Rexenm

Inkling
So in summary, a devoted fanbase, a dedicated estate and good-will from connections up high in certain nations are the deterrents we can think of.
It’s funny you call it a deterrent. Maybe privilege is the word you are looking for.

Could be a good basis of a short story where an author programs a robot or computer program to file and follow through with a court case the moment his copyright runs out :p
The issue is the law can be broken. It ain’t broken, so don’t fix it.
 
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