View Full Version : Digital Signatures and Copyright

L Jamal
07-12-2006, 07:17 PM
Thread was split off the Comic book Challenge Thread ...

For all those that didn't enter becuase of fear of losing rights ... remember you can only reliquish copyrights via a SIGNED agreement. Until you sign on the dotted line it's all yours.

Although based on the text of the interview, Platinum will eventuall ask for 100% of the rights with you receiving profit participation.

07-12-2006, 07:32 PM
For all those that didn't enter becuase of fear of losing rights ... remember you can only reliquish copyrights via a SIGNED agreement. Until you sign on the dotted line it's all yours.

Although based on the text of the interview, Platinum will eventuall ask for 100% of the rights with you receiving profit participation.

Actually, the entry is signing away some rights. The rights are spelled out in the entry form. And these do hold up in court, look to those who enter a writing contest, don't win but are published. The magazines got the rights to publish in the entry, even though they only pay the winners usually.

There are some specific passages that wouldn't get through my council and would cause me problems. Everyone's situation is different. Particularly interesting to that entry was that you sign away any right to sue if they do another story exactly like yours. So if you do a period piece horror on William Tell and he meets Martha Washington, by signing up for this contest you agree that if they don't pick your story but later on do an exact story (written by someone else of course) then you cannot sue. That isn't a usual agreement for contests. It would be pretty hard to sue based on the entry form for anything unless yours is a completely fictional tale and they actually use your character names. I've passed this through my entertainment lawyer (seriously) and it definitely goes beyond the usual entry application.

But this might not be a bad thing for everyone, I think your milage for any contest varies from person to person. It's pointless to protect ideas you may have if you wouldn't do anything with them anyway. Let them speed away, no matter what vehicle you use. You never know what they may return home with.

I think for most this is going to be a great thing. Any publicity is good to get you out there. Again, congrats! And I hope to see you all there.

L Jamal
07-12-2006, 07:47 PM
(a) A transfer of copyright ownership, other than by operation of law, is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner's duly authorized agent.

07-12-2006, 07:49 PM

You sign it electronically when you enter. I do electronic contracts all the time, they are binding. The entry form is a contract and you agree to it when you sign it.

"2. Good-faith negotiation.

If Platinum desires to use any part of the Material submitted by the contest participant which is protected by copyright law, then Platinum shall notify the contest participant thereof and Platinum and the contest participant shall negotiate in good faith for the execution of an express contract setting forth the terms and conditions for the acquisition by Platinum of any or all rights in all the Material which Platinum may desire to acquire. The contest participant acknowledges, however, that Platinum is not agreeing to refrain from, or to compensate the contest participant for, the use of any elements of the Material which are not protected by copyright laws, including, by way of illustration only, ideas, historical or factual matters or other public domain elements or aspects of the Material. The foregoing shall apply whether or not Platinum has obtained such ideas and/or other public domain elements from other sources."

From my lawyer [sorry if you remember this from another thread but I think it's helpful] "This section address two things: (1) it gives them the right to negotiate in good faith for whatever rights they want. It appears that they may be able to acquire whatever rights they wish, so long as the terms are negotiated in good faith. This is problematic if you don't want to give up rights and/or if you have already granted certain rights to other parties. and (2) if they read your script (which is copyrightable), like the idea (which is not copyrightable), and hire someone to write a script (which is copyrightable) based on the idea (which is not copyrightable), you will have no claim. This is not an issue with 'boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, etc.' stories, but for something like [my book] (or any other story that is unique and/or even if not unique, is not generally known/used), you are basically inviting them to write a script based on your idea without compensation."

Maybe another lawyer has another view?

L Jamal
07-12-2006, 08:59 PM
The Electronic Signature Act did make it "not legal" to disregard signed electronic contracts, however no universal definition of electronic signature has been produced and it's still uncertain if said Act applies to the Copyright Act. The Electronic Signature Act is a federal law that attempts to impose some uniformity over state laws about Electronic signature mainly to encourage and stimulate e-commerce. It's untested about how those state laws of electronic signatures would apply to the federal Copyright Act as there has to be a signed contract and well as a record of transfer. The record of transfer is something that an online form may not reasonable provide since the medium is not fixable.

07-12-2006, 09:01 PM
How would one authenticate a signature anyway?

L Jamal
07-12-2006, 09:12 PM
The same way you would go about authenticating an ink signature'
You'd have to prove that the signature was signed and submitted by the correct party

07-12-2006, 09:14 PM
The same way you would go about authenticating an ink signature.


You can match two ink signatures. With an electronic, I am just clicking on something. I realize there may be a way to go by ISP address or something, but that doesn't mean I clicked or didn't click anything.

Plus, you can alway notarize...I guess there could be a way to do that electronically.

D.J. Coffman
07-12-2006, 10:02 PM
On the actual print out contracts you have there.. one thing is interesting-- it has you write your name, but it says PROPERTY NAME in regards to the property-- but you're not naming the property on those contracts-- thats interesting. I suppose if you hand wrote Property Name= GUY WHO SHOOTS FIRE FROM HIS EYES -- then you're signing away rights to that.

But if it just says PROPERTY NAME and the actual idea isn't written on the contract-- hmmmm....

Actually, that IS cancelled out due to submitting in the electronic agreement-- so, your NAME is attached to what you pitched... i guess that makes sense.

Anyone looking to outright own their properties, this isn't for you. This is better for PR and selling something off to make some quick cash-- you will get royalties and it's not like they're not going to not pay you-- I guess it all depends on how you work your own deals. I'd consider this more of a stepping stone to other stuff -- thats just me though.

07-12-2006, 10:22 PM
Basically, the best advice I've gotten is when in doubt...consult an attorney. I don't leave any legal matters to guessing or internet posts. It's good for us to talk about this, but seriously, if you really believe in a project it's worth consulting an attorney before you enter it into any contests or sign anything. Only someone experienced in legal law can really tell you how the courts are likely to view it. [advice I've gotten and was happy to have taken]


L Jamal
07-12-2006, 11:05 PM
I'd even go further to say talk to 2-3 lawyers at diffrent firms. All lawyers can off different perspectives. If you can't get a concensus, then the contract is not good enough to protect you.

07-12-2006, 11:33 PM
No contract is good enough to protect you...they are always open to interperetation and if no one but a lawyer can fully understand them - yet there has to be a "meeting of the minds" for the contract to be valid - and you do not consult a lawyer, you have an invalid contract by definition anyway.

Either way, when it comes down to anything even mildly hazy, the "big guy" will win. That simple. He has the money, he gets to buy justice.

I've also been told by more than one law expert (one lawyer, several law students) that no contract is worth the paper it's written on if you have a good lawyer.

Aaron Hübrich
07-13-2006, 08:16 AM
I agree with DJ on this one. If you're at all paranoid about this deal, pass on it. But if you feel cool about taking a chance (and it's no big deal if Platinum uses it), then chalk it up to experience and point as many people to it that you can once it's published.

Ron Phillips
07-13-2006, 10:26 AM
Nothing to do with this particular contract. But one data center I worked with when you signed their agreement, they actually had a script where you actually signed it on screen. I thought that was really cool as it gave a digital signature and not a keyed authorization.

07-13-2006, 11:50 AM
Did they pick the semi-finalists?