Adapting Novel into Film
This chapter explores, from an interdisciplinary perspective, the right of copyright holders to adapt literary works into film media. From debates in other fields of study, certain theories emerge which help to better understand the possibility of cinematic adaptation from literary sources. The author begins with the counterintuitive idea that there is no essence to any given work that is available to be adapted to another medium (constructivism). A second school of thought argues that the differences between literature and cinema — the written word and the visual image — are too great for there to be anything approaching equivalency between the two media (adaptation skepticism). Next the author considers the argument that what is adapted from book into film is a narrative structure that in only some respects is amenable to transfer to the film medium (structuralism). The author concludes with a brief look at the argument that reading and visualizing are inverse cognitive processes that suggest the differences between the two media are overstated (cognitive equivalency). After a brief exploration of the adaptation right in law, each of these perspectives is addressed. The author ultimately sides with the structuralist position and concludes that the legal test for infringement has much to gain from this analytical framework.
Dr Cameron Hutchison is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Alberta. His publications and research interests centre around international and Canadian intellectual property law, statutory interpretation, Internet law, and interdisciplinary perspectives on the law of copyright. Professor Hutchison currently teaches the following courses: intellectual property, musicians and the law, statutory interpretation, and conflict of laws.