I’ve been writing a screenplay that is based on a certain concept album. I was wondering where, how, and any other information that I would need to obtain permission to adapt the work.
Standard advice applies here: If you’re basing your work on someone else’s work, then copyright probably applies, and you’ll need to get their permission in writing at some point.
(I say copyright “probably” applies. If what you’re writing
is clearly a parody, you may be able to slip through. For example, if your
movie pokes fun at “We Are the World” celebrity sing-alongs,
you would likely be safely in parody territory. You’d also be a decade
or two too late, but so be it.)
The question of when you need to get permission is more difficult to
answer. If you’re just writing this for the hell of it, keep typing. Don’t
worry about getting anyone’s permission. But if you’re convinced
this will be your magnum opus, then it’s a good idea to start the
process of tracking down the copyright-holders. You’ll want to see if they’re
at all interested in working with you.
In the case of a concept album, copyright almost certainly rests with
the songwriters, so start there. Figure out who they are, then try to
contact information. Start with Google (since you’re already on-line),
searching for both the songwriter and the record label. If you don’t
have any luck, my next stop would be to call ASCAP and BMI in Los Angeles
(or Nashville, if it’s a country/western album), and try to find
agency or other contact information.
If you strike out here, your next best bet is the record label that released the album. Ask for the legal department, and be as nice as humanly possible while they try to direct you to the proper people. Your final option would be to enlist the help of an experienced entertainment attorney, both to track down the copyright holders and to help you draft any agreements you need.