Ripping off Writers …

Is not cool, no matter how you slice it.

I received an e-mail from a friend of mine yesterday, with a link to an article I’d read in Maclean’s a few weeks ago.

The premise: Canadian newspaper columnist Rebecca Eckler wrote a book, Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-be, which was released two years ago in the U.S. She’d been looking into the possibility of selling the movie rights when last year, she found out that a movie of almost the same name as her book was going to be released the following year. Turns out the movie in question has been a success in the theatres this summer.

It also turns out that – according to Eckler – the movie has way too many similarities to her book. So for the last year, she’s been seeking legal action against the writer/producer behind the movie, as well as the film studio.

(Click here for the link to the Maclean’s article, in Rebecca’s words.)

My friend says she was going to go see the film, but held off due to the controversy. She has opted instead to watch the film online illegally, so as not to support the company backing the film.

I’m of two minds whether to see it at all, whether legally or not. Not that I’m a fan of Eckler’s, but as someone who one day wants to write books, this situation bothers me a bit too much.

Not that I’m an expert in the legal wranglings or formal protocol of the movie business. But from what I understand in this day and age, if a film company really, really wants to make a book into a movie, they usually go through the proper channels of asking to buy movie rights. Right?

If this Judd Apatow guy really wanted to make this movie based on Eckler’s book, why didn’t he just do that instead? I mean, he works for a studio that’s not doing too shabbily in the revenue department. And I’m pretty sure that whatever costs were involved in buying movie rights wouldn’t even put a dent in the amount of movie sales this film has pulled in so far.

Whether the truth will emerge about whether this guy actually, wilfully stole Eckler’s story for his own commercial gain remains to be seen.

But for someone who works for quite a while on a piece of fiction – especially if it’s their first – it’s kinda scary to know that when you share it with others, you’re taking the risk of having someone use it in another medium withour your expressed consent and try to pass it off as theirs.

Sure takes the sting out of all those “plagiarism is bad” lectures you get in school, doesn’t it?

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