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JGM, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 12080
Experience:  30 years as a practising solicitor.
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My aunt (an accredited writer) wrote the first draft of a

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My aunt (an accredited writer) wrote the first draft of a romantic novel, set in the 1750s and based on fact, in 1946. She died shortly after and the novel was never published. In due course her son passed the typescript to me and from it I devised a treatment (synopsis) as a basis for producing a TV series or feature film. Her son (my cousin and also a published writer) was pleased with what I had written and told me the copyright should lie with me: I have no written evidence to prove this, but his widow and her sons are content that I should continue in that capacity. I am now attempting to interest TV and film producers in developing this story for the screen. Because the novel was never finished, no copyright was ever taken out but I understand that after 70 years (2016) anyone could take this story and develop it without my permission. I have of course retained the typescript and other important papers associated with the story, and would only release them under fair contractual terms: the story is not only true but also highly dramatic and heart rending, and thus has much potential value to producers. Do I need to prove that the copyright lies with me until 2016? And is it possible to extend the copyright? I would be most grateful for your advice. Charles XXXXXXXXX

Thank you for your question.
I am a solicitor with an interest in copyright law.
Copyright isn't something that is taken out. It just exists as a matter of law. The copyright in the unfinished novel belongs to your aunt's estate and will expire on 31 December in the year which is the 70th anniversary of her death.
This cannot be extended.
However, the treatment and any subsequent script would have copyright of their own. Subject to any assignation or licensing of the copyright, that would remain with the authors of the treatment or script for a similar period.
Insofar as it is important for you to retain the remaining copyright to the end of 2016, you should ask the direct descendants for a licence or assignation, but I'm not sure that the remaining period will matter if you are in possession of the original manuscript and papers. Going forward it sounds like you will want to retain or otherwise licence your own work on this, rather than that of the original author.
I hope this helps.
Please leave a positive response so that I am credited for my time.
JGM, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 12080
Experience: 30 years as a practising solicitor.
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