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JGM, Solicitor
Category: Scots Law
Satisfied Customers: 12195
Experience:  30 years as a practising solicitor.
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script copywright

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script copywright
Thank you for your question.
Can you complete your narrative please?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry, you should have received this first time.

This is a question about the rights of intellectual property between me, the sponsor who produced the idea, arranged the briefings, and paid for the script, and the playwright, who put it together in dramatic form.

In 2007 I approached a Scottish play*****, ***** Dallmeyer, with the proposition that he write a musical on Robert Burns. After further discussions he eventually agreed and the terms were £2000 to produce a treatment and a further £6000 payable on the finished script .

I sent him a letter dated 14 June, which confirmed my terms. There was no further paperwork and the cheque was duly cashed. Andrew Dallmeyer attended briefings by a number of Burns experts who guided him on the life of Burns and also selected the tunes from the Burns era to go with Andrew’s songs. Some of the songs and words are from the originals of Burns’s time.

At these meetings it was made clear that we intended to offer the script, free of charge, to all educational establishments in Scotland, and subsequently overseas. We also discussed our hopes for commercial development.

Andrew Dallmeyer subsequently completed the script and was paid in full.

My understanding of our outline agreement on 14 June (see below)was that the charity owned the script and that we had the right to distribute the script to schools etc and that if there was any commercial development a fair deal would be reached for all concerned.

Our first difficulty occurred when the Scottish national youth Theatre Company wanted to put the musical at the Fringe, shortening it to one hour, but Andrew kicked up such a fuss that they cancelled their plans. We did have a tentative meeting with Andrew to dissuade him from interfering. The gist was that he was quite happy about the free offer into schools, but that he was anxious to make some money if it was commercially developed. In answer to my point that I had commissioned him to write the script for £9000, and therefore the script belong to first Scottish, he said that he had copyright and that the only requirement, on any commercial development, was for him to repay the £9000. Nothing further was said.

Since 2007, the charity has spent considerable time and money publicising the script. Among other things it commissioned a well-known arranger of music to produce piano arrangements of the lyrics at a cost of £4000 .

Also, because the original script was too long and too adult for many schools, a shortened version was adapted from Andrew Dallmeyer’s Burns Supper by another person and named “Rabbie.”

In August 2014 “Rabbie” was performed by senior schools in the Edinburgh fringe. Andrew Dallmeyer was invited to attend the performance and very pleased that the response. He said he had been given sufficient confidence now wish to promote it for commercial production.

The plans are for Rabbie to be performed at a larger venue in the Edinburgh fringe next year, once again by schools, and this may become a fixture in the fringe programme. We are now getting enquiries from commercial producers and consider that we must tackle the issue of the rights of the various parties.

I would like it if you were able to clarify my situation , in particular my rights as below

1. To distribute the script to schools etc, and make such alterations as are required without hindrance from Andrew Dallmeyer .

2. To seek out commercial development of Burns supper and have an agreement with Andrew as to what his “take” on any royalties etc should be. I understand that a typical royalty situation is 5% of the ticket sales. In which case, what would be a fair split between Andrew Dallmeyer and the charity, first Scottish?


Andrew is not quite the starving playwright, but is anxious to make some money. There are the possibilities of a further commission from my quarter. He has an agent, but so far has not involved him. I doubt that he would go to the expense or bloody-mindedness of stopping a school perform, but it is something which producers are fearful about. In other words, they may want a firm assurance from me.

Can I see the letter/outline agreement of 14 June referred to please.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Sorry , here it is

Andrew Dallmeyer

2/5 Rosevale Terrace



14 June 2007

Dear *****

It was good to see you again and catch up with your ideas. I hope that you completely realise you are not being asked to compromise your principles and produce some sentimental rubbish on Burns, and hope that you find your researches and chat with Purdie useful. Can we have a chat after you have a stronger vision for your treatment? No impresarios or anyone else present.

Here is the £1000 as part of the £2000 being paid to you to produce a treatment. The other £1000 will be paid after presentation of the treatment, around the end of July. You expect the treatment to be 12-14 pages. I presume it will describe the characters and the story, the themes to be explored, a step outline, and sample scenes which should certainly include one of the 6 big song scenes.

Hopefully this will lead to the commissioning of the script for which a further £6000 will be paid. Because of pressure of work you say you cannot promise the finished script earlier than the end of March 2008. I just hope this gives time for a school production prior to being picked up for the Edinburgh Festival to celebrate the 250 anniversary of Burn’s birth in 2009.

I have written to the other members of the Burns Unit to explain how I hope all will proceed; that the plan is to “showcase” the project at school level and hope that it picked up and exploited as a full commercial enterprise and that the project will be owned and, for the time being, managed by First Scottish Film Foundation, a charity, of which I am a trustee. Your treatment and script will be funded by the charity. Clearly there will be other work, choreography, incorporation and arrangement of music etc, required for which there will not be sufficient funds but it would be unfair to ask people to work for nothing. I proposed that, if the project makes money i.e. is picked up for commercial production, those involved will be rewarded according to their contribution and this would be decided by an impartial professional individual. My role is entirely as a trustee of FSFF. I do not draw a salary, expenses or any benefit from FSFF and any benefit accruing to FSFF etc would go to be spent on other interesting projects.

Good luck with the treatment.



Many thanks.
I think you have a problem with the copyright. Copyright vests in the author of the work, or an employer if the author was an employee acting in the course of employment which is not the case here.
Nothing in the paperwork suggests that the copyright was assigned by the author. Paying an author for a treatment and a script is not indicative of an assignation of the copyright in the same way as a songwriter writing a song for a singer doesn't give up the copyright in the song unless there is a specific agreement to that effect.
From what you say the schools issue is not such a problem as he has agreed to the use in schools. Alterations to the script would be permitted in a limited way so as to ensure there is no major detraction or derogatory treatment of the work.
As far as commercial exploitation is concerned you need to negotiate either an assignation of the copyright or a licence agreement with the author. The percentages are a matter for the parties to negotiate and can vary substantially. However, you would want to build in credit on your side for the monies already expended such as marketing costs, musical arrangements etc.
Happy to discuss further.
JGM and other Scots Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Tnks. Excelelnt. Have further q , prob on Thurs.


How can I help you further?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you very much. Sorry about delay in replying.

I am particularly relieved that you consider that the free distribution to schools and that reasonable alterations to his text should not be an issue.

Thank you also for your view that the simplest way ahead for commercial exploitation is to arrange the assignation of copyright or a licence agreement .

I would be very grateful if you could clarify further

1. Andrew has suggested that he, the author, on commercial exploitation, would receive 5% of box office takings . Is this realistic?

2. If a commercial operator picks up a musical , Andrew has said that he considers his only responsibility would be to repay the £8000 to the charity . You have suggested he could be charged for the additional work I have put in to achieve the recent public performance , £4000 for musical arrangements, other production costs, many hours of unpaid work by myself and others etc etc. Is that reasonable ?

I presume I would have to agree with and if necessary pursue Andrew personally for any monies.

Would I actually be able to prevent commercial exploitation if I was unable to reach an agreement with Andrew to my satisfaction?

3. I appreciate that Andrew has the “copyright” but surely others input must affect and detract from his 100% ownership? For instance

The fact that the musical was “my idea” and he was commissioned

Guidance by Burns experts

Selection of music to match lyrics by outside expert

Could those three above reduce his 100% to ,say, 50%

Very grateful for your final comments.

1. Royalties are always subject to negotiation and there is no rule on this other than what is contracted between the parties. The percentage is not outwith the usual pear trees as far as I am aware.

2. All he would be able to licence would be that part that he holds the copyright for, so the rest he would have no locus to deal with. He would have to do a deal with you to exploit the rest of it commercially and that is where he may have difficulty in the absence of an existing agreement. In other words his bit could be fairly worthless without yours and vice versa.

3. As I say above, he has 100% copyright in his script and you have 100% the rest. To use the whole, agreement would be needed.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks and forgive me if I am missing something obvious, but what exactly is “the rest” of which I have 100%. Yes, I understand that AD could not use the musical arrangements without my permission, but what else comprises my 100%?


I have already gratefully rated you on your responses so far

look forward to hearing from you


The music, the costumes, the scenery, the choreography, logos, etc etc.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you. The music went out of copyright over 200 years ago, there is no scenery, no logos, the choreography is at the discretion of the director- That leaves me with 100% of nothing.