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A friend of mine was gracious enough to let me write a story using a setting he has been using for his own novel. I finished my novella while he is still working. I am looking at indie publishing the novella but I want to make sure it is known he owns the world/setting. He was surprised when I brought up the idea of doing a shared world. We both want the same things:

  1. He retains ownership of the world/setting.
  2. He may write whatever stories he wants in them (as he owns them).
  3. I am allowed to write in them.

I understand we will have to discuss continuity in case my stories go in a different direction than he plans. However, I am not using any of the characters from his novel in progress.

I have been looking for similar agreements online so that everything is on the table before we go further. But I have had no luck. Does anyone know where I might find such an agreement or what all needs to be included if not?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you are both publishing independently, then it doesn't much matter. Write up a contract spelling out everything, you both sign two copies, and Bob's your uncle.

Examples of "everything":

  • John Smith (hereafter "Author") is the creator of the SchmoopyWorld setting, environs, and characters (hereafter "Universe"). Copyright belongs to him, his assigns, and heirs unless explicitly granted otherwise.
  • Frank Luke (hereafter "Buddy") is granted permission by Author to write stories in the Universe.
  • Buddy's stories may or may not contain elements of Author's stories. Elements include but are not limited to characters, settings, events, geography, animals, language, technology, culture, literature, music, ninjas, sharks, and ninjas riding on sharks.
  • Buddy agrees to confer with Author before embarking on any writing projects to make sure that Buddy's works do not violate the continuity of Author's works.
  • Author may write whatever stories he chooses in the Universe, and is not obliged to seek or receive Buddy's permission before doing so.

These are just off the top of my head. Basically, you hash out every possible thing the two of you can think of in regards to your stories, write it down, and agree to it. Add a line about Severability (if part 1 is declared void, that doesn't mean the whole contract is) and that you can add to the contract if you need to.

However, if your friend gets a contract with a regular publisher, the rights which he's granting you would have to be worked into his contract with them, and that's a different kettle of fish. I don't know if a publisher would allow that with a new author.

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Thank you. Can you explain severability a little more, please? Does it (in this case) mean that if he signed away the copyright, I would still have rights on my previously written works? –  Frank Luke Jun 27 '13 at 21:04
    
I'm not a lawyer, so I can't tell you about the intricacies of copyright law. Severability basically means that if one part of the contract ("Buddy agrees not to violate continuity") is declared invalid, it doesn't invalidate anything else; the rest of the contract still holds. You'd have to talk to a copyright lawyer to determine what copyrights you'd hold. I also don't know if a publishing contract would automatically override a personal one. –  Lauren Ipsum Jun 28 '13 at 0:49
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