The most favourite productions of Turkish Televisions, which constitute almost the whole of entertainment and domestic life of Turkish people, are the TV series and morning shows. However, most of these TV series are Turkish adaptations of foreign TV series and while the American productions were mostly preferred in the past, today's leading productions are based on Korean and Japanese shows.
So how do these Korean or Japanese productions become so-called "Turkish Series"? Do Screenwriters have a finger in the pie?
Almost every foreign format broadcasted on TV is adapted by Turkish screenwriters in accordance with Turkish life style to make it more convincing for the audience. During the adaptation process, screenwriters firstly create the "Framework Story/General Synopsis" which serves as a context for the main idea of the TV series including the main conflict, triggering event and character ideas. Screenwriters may also write a detailed character analysis. Afterwards, the episode scenarios shall be written based on the framework story and character analysis.
This briefly summarized above adaptation work, certainly has a reflection in Copyright Law and Turkish Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works. If the screenwriter creates a different plotline on the main characters and main idea of foreign screenplay, adds new characters and/or changes the plotline/main characters of the foreign format during its adaptation to Turkish life style and standard practices of Turkish TV industry, the screenwriter will change the original scenario. Thus screenwriter will have created a "Derivative Work", based on the foreign scenario but bearing the characteristic of the Turkish screenwriter.
Derivative Work is deemed as another work protected under Turkish Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works and it is mandatory to get its author's written permission to be able to use the Derivative Work. Therefore the screenwriters adapting foreign shows to Turkey shall hold the author rights provided that the conditions set by under Turkish Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works are met.
In practice, the screenwriter who writes the Framework Story may leave the project after writing the framework story and character analysis thus may not be in the team of writers for the episode scenarios. In such case, if the Framework Story bears the characteristics of a "Derivative Work" and episode scenarios are written based on such Framework Story, the Framework Story Writer shall have the right to ask for a copyright fee. Moreover, it should be remembered that newly created characters may be protected separately as "Personification" if they meet the special criteria set by the Law.
The market value for copyright fees varies according to the performed work and production budget of TV series. Minimum fees may be declared by professional societies. In case of a dispute these minimum fees declared by professional societies may be deemed as an example by the courts, however the copyright claims shall be evaluated separately for each case and they may be lower or higher than the fees declared by these societies.
In order to avoid disputes and unfavourable events regarding TV projects, screenwriters should have knowledge on their author rights and create a proper business model and agreement in terms of Copyright Law before starting a project, while the producers should likewise determine the authors/copyright holders correctly and sign required copyright agreements before starting the project.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.