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How do I acquire rights to out-of-copyright work?

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

NovelistInNYC

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A partner and I are hoping to acquire the movie rights to an autobiography that was published in 1965 by Atheneum Publishers. This involves a certain comedy star from those days. We are looking to find any information at all about who we might talk to to make this a "go" project and develop a screenplay. Help!
 

Thomma Lyn

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I googled Atheneum Publishers and came up with a page about the Scribner Imprint. Looks like Scribner acquired Atheneum in 1978, per this link:

Scribner

From the above link: "The trade adult imprints of Macmillan, Charles Scribner's Sons, and Atheneum are blended under the single name of Scribner, which includes Eleanor Rawson and Lisa Drew Books."

Hope this helps or at least gives a useful lead. :)
 

NovelistInNYC

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Well, the author has been dead for over thirty years, so I'm not sure who it would have reverted to. But thanks, Uncle Jim. (I already see I'm in for a goose chase with this, between Scribner and Simon's).
 

James D. Macdonald

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The author's dead? Find his/her literary executor.

After a book reverts the publisher has no more ability to sell you the rights.

The updated copyright laws, the ones that make the term of copyright author's life + 70 years, have made quite a number of books literally unpublishable. Many times the heirs (if you can find them, and they know they have the rights, and have clear title) have an unrealistic idea of what the rights are worth, and hold out for millions (or at the least a better offer from someone else).
 

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