IP As An Instrument To CYA

IMHO, “turnaround” == “dog in a manger” clause — and a key conceptual problem that lies at the heart of a lot of the IPR conflagration we find ourselves in: Scene Stealer – The Murky Side of Movie Rights

HOW could this happen? The question springs to mind as 20th Century Fox claims it has the rights to the graphic novel on which Warner Brothers is basing “Watchmen,” its giant superhero movie.

Peer deeper into the murk of Hollywood’s business practices, though, and the question becomes: How could it not?

[…] The Fox-Warner tiff turns on matters potentially more nettlesome to the industry at large. Central to Fox’s complaint is the mysterious matter of what is called turnaround.

On its face, turnaround is a contractual mechanism that allows a studio to release its interest in a dormant film project, while recovering costs, plus interest, from any rival that eventually adopts the project. But turnaround is a stacked deck.

The turnaround clauses in a typical contract are also insurance for studio executives who do not want to be humiliated by a competitor who makes a hit out of their castoffs.

That trick turns on a term of art: “changed elements.” A producer of a movie acquired in turnaround who comes up with a new director, or star, or story line, or even a reduction in budget, must give the original studio another shot at making the movie because of changed elements, even if a new backer has entered the picture.

A possible rephrasing: “since I coulda, but didn’t, you owe me” — certainly sounds like something to “promote science and the useful arts,” right?

Later: Studio War Involving ‘Watchmen’ Heats Up