Warner Bros. Buys Story That Was Written In The Reddit Comments; Then Tells Author To Stop Redditing

from the wb,-you're-doing-it-wrong dept

Here's a story that starts out great... but then gets annoying towards the end.

I know we've got many Redditors here, but for those who don't spend time there, they might find this story interesting. We keep hearing stories these days about how the big movie studios are afraid to try anything particularly original when it comes to greenlighting movies -- preferring these days to do remakes, adaptations or sequels, knowing that they all bring in a guaranteed audience of some kind. So it's interesting to see (as sent in by Aaron DeOliveira) that Warner Bros. "aggressively" went after and bought the rights to a story that was written in the comments of Reddit. It started when a Reddit user asked if a modern US Marine infantry battalion could wipe out the entire Roman Empire given the modern technology they would have.

Reddit user Prufrock451, who is more commonly known as James Erwin (and is apparently an author and a "two-time Jeopardy winner") jumped at the opportunity to dash off a bit of fiction describing "day 1" of such a modern military unit being transported to the Roman Empire. And the Redditors liked it. Big time. They encouraged, nay demanded, that he write more. So he wrote some more, and an entire Subreddit was created, called Rome Sweet Rome, with plenty of people contributing additional ideas, including graphics and a hypothetical movie poster.

And late last week, the news came out that Warner Bros. had purchased the movie rights. Of course, there's a long way from buying the rights to actually having a movie made. I know folks who have sold movie rights only to see them languish for ages with nothing ever happening. Still, whole thing from comment to movie deal? A little over a month. When I read all that, I thought about how cool a move this was, and how it was nice to see Warner Bros. apparently being progressive on such a deal and realizing the value not just of the story but the wider Reddit community.

But then I read a little more. In an interview with Erwin on ScreenRant, Erwin admits that now that a deal has been signed he has to stop participating in the subreddit because everyone's "lawyered-up" and worried about "locked-down IP rights."
Unfortunately, I have not been able to spend time on Reddit. This is not because I think Iím too big for my britches now. The Internet is a chaotic, give-and-take place Ė and that creates nightmares for a lawyered-up industry based on locked-down IP rights. In a perfect world, I would be in that subreddit every day Ė but thatís not whatís best for the project. I want this to succeed, and that unfortunately meant going dark for a while. I hope the folks in the RomeSweetRome subreddit see this little mash note. I miss em.
Ah, what a shame. What could have been a fun, collaborative process that really involved and built on the community -- who would have loved it -- instead becomes a lame "lawyered-up" situation with "locked-down IP rights." Sorry, WB, but you missed the whole point.

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  1. icon
    Jon Lawrence (profile), 17 Oct 2011 @ 10:19pm

    Re: Re: Fundamental Problem

    Oh, and I'll adjust my argument. Obviously not ALL network and studio execs think/know their business models are in trouble.

    Some prefer life with their heads in their sand - most have 10, 20 years max until they're out, retired with lots of money or dead; so the longer they can keep their legacy gravy train rolling and then jump off and let the new guys figure it out, the better for them.

    All good for them; but probably not so good for the long term sustainability of the companies they "lead."

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