Collaboration Paper Trails


Two of Collab Writers’ taglines are the all important ‘collaborate’ and ‘create.’ They are the foundation of who we are as a community. Like a house or community needs strong foundations, once we ‘connect’ Collab Writers need strong, dependable, trustworthy relationships. Please don’t be put off by the hand touching above, at least one person is wearing a glove. Hopefully one day soon we can all hold hands again without gloves or hand sanitiser!

Look to your homes for an example 

To bring the importance of paper trails home, can you imagine buying a house without hiring a solicitor/conveyancer? NO! The same goes for when you rent a property, you get a draft lease of what the tenant can and cannot do in the property. If anyone has rented from a friend without writing down the do’s and don’t; whilst it might be rosy to begin with, cracks can show later on down the line when each friend recalls a different conversation. Some of you may have been there!

Collaboration is golden

Collaboration can produce writing and creation beyond your wildest dreams, ideas that wouldn’t have happened if it was just you. We are moving into a world where working together is going to be vital for the future of the Planet and our Society. Gone is the individualistic hedonism of our Old World order, the ‘I have more than you’,’ I am better than you’ ego dominated approach to life. Collaboration has a firm place at the table of the future and we need to take care to build strong foundations, both as a community and individually to work together as best we can.

A game of ‘Consequences’ Collab Writers’ style was good practice

At our monthly meet-ups (at The Library and The Arboretum) over the last year, many of you played the game of ‘Consequences’ in pairs, threes or more to practice the art of collaborative story writing on stories that we started for you to finish. The stories can be seen on our website. This was to encourage a playground for collaboration of ideas and to build relationships of trust with one another, potentially for future collaborations.

One of our missions at Collab Writers is to build a community of like-minded individuals, pulling in the same direction to collaborate and create.

Paper trails / email chains

We all know the importance of paper trails, even in the creative realm. If there is no paper trail, or ‘electronic trail’ of what, who, how much etc there can be problems later on down the line. At April’s Collab Writer online meet-up via ZOOM, we were reminded of the importance of ‘paper trails’ by media and entertainment lawyer, Tony Morris.

A couple of  founder members shared lessons learned of collaborations where they hadn’t created paper trails and to no surprise, prevailed on who owned what and ideas were snatched. In one circumstance, there was a walking away. The collaboration mood music was clear:

When you collaborate with others, WRITE DOWN who’s doing what and how you are splitting creative ownership, etc. A written agreement is music to any lawyer’s ear, especially if you end up seeking legal advice for a dispute further down the line.

In this vein, Tony mentioned a helpful Court of Appeal case, Kogan v Martin [2019] EWCA Civ 1645 concerning joint authorship of copyright works. In his judgment, Lord Justice Floyd reviewed the existing legal authorities and provided helpful guidance on the law of joint authorship, summarising the position in 11 key requirements. If you have a geekish interest in this or just want some tips, have a read.

So, what can you do to try to encourage positive collaborations?

You can never predict what might happen in a collaboration and that’s half the fun, so you can’t predict whether a dispute will arise, in the same way that you can’t predict how long we might be isolating for in 2020! However, failing to prepare in any collaboration is preparing to fail. It’s really that easy. The advice is WRITE THINGS DOWN…..and send emails to one another confirming what you have agreed.

The proof is in the pudding, Blue Peter style

Like the old Blue Peter saying ‘ here is something I made earlier’ it is so much easier to explain your side of the story  when you have something to rely upon. A back and forth with your collaborators clearly setting out who is doing what and how you will attribute any collaborative effort, will be a life saver for both your wallet and your creative collaboration. “He said,” “she said,” “I said” is messy and it’s your word against theirs which isn’t much really. Make everyone’s life easier by agreeing upfront IN WRITING. 

Eager to learn practical tips from a leading media & entertainment lawyer?

If you want to know more about some of the do’s and don’ts, Tony Morris is running online sessions on this topic and a number of other important topics:

🎬 Rights in a film – who owns what?
– Monday 13th April at 7pm UK time
🎬 Collaboration arrangements for indie filmmakers
– Thursday 16th April 2020 at 7pm UK time
🎬 In front of the camera – what needs sorting?
– Monday 20th April 2020 at 7pm UK time
🎬 Writers’ agreements
Thursday 23rd April 2020 at 7pm UK time
🎬 Using music in film
Monday 27th April 2020 at 7pm UK time

Lectures will be held on Zoom and cost £8 each, or £35 for all 5. These classes are managed by Raindance.

And to make our lives easier, Tony has already written key advice down in his book, The Filmmakers’ Legal Guide. The Kindle version is available on Amazon.

Details of the second edition are on Facebook where some FAQs are answered and there are some short videos featuring those who have used the book in the course of their productions.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Ok, ok, I like to prepare for things. I blame my introverted nature and background as a lawyer. Whatevs, it has served me well, so to cut through the chaff here, when you collaborate with others set out in writing a clear understanding of:

1.Who owns what in your creative collaboration

“I’ve created it (I have creative ownership) and you’ve collaborated on X,Y, Z.”

2.Who is doing what

3.Who controls what.

All of this is to help ease your creative collaboration journey.  Collaboration can make your creative ideas much richer, just play nicely and fairly. Happy Collab’ing Collabers!






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