Weidner Foundation Intellectual Property Rights

During the Weidner Foundation’s 25-year history, the Foundation has received inquiries from third parties desiring to tell John Weidner’s life story as a dramatic film or television series. The Foundation is unable to collaborate with all who wish to work with us to tell the Weidner story but we value the creative talents, integrity, and enthusiasm of all who have contacted us. John Henry Weidner entrusted his legacy to the Weidner Foundation and we take this trust as a matter of existential importance. Filmmakers and producers should be aware of the following facts.

Life Story Rights

  1. During his life, John Henry Weidner (“JHW”) asserted his rights as the “owner” of his life story, including its possible uses “on radio, television, motion picture, theater or other use” (June 13, 1963 “Agreement for Development of Manuscript” with Herbert Ford).
  2. When he died on May 21, 1994, JHW’s life story rights passed to Naomi Weidner (“NW”) as the sole executor of his estate, in keeping with established estate laws and with California civil law concerning life rights and rights of publicity of deceased persons.
  3. On February 10, 2009, NW signed an “Exclusive Grant of Authority” with “respect to the name, identity and likeness of John Henry Weidner”; and on February 23, 2019, NW signed a “Life Story Rights Agreement” conveying to the Foundation, “irrevocably and exclusively…in perpetuity”, the Life Story Rights of JHW.

Book Rights

  1. Flee the Captor by Herbert Ford: On June 13, 1963, JHW and Ford jointly signed an “Agreement for Development of Manuscript.” The contract stipulated: “The owner [JHW] shall have full and exclusive authority to determine what further use of said book shall be made beyond its original publication in book or magazine form including its possible use on radio, television, motion picture, theater or other use.” The Foundation, as the legal owner of the life story rights of Weidner, has asserted its “full and exclusive authority to determine what further use [if any] of said book [Flee the Captor] shall be made beyond its original publication.”
  2. The Escape Line (and its Dutch version, Gewone Helden) by Megan Koreman: On April 4, 2009, the Weidner Foundation commissioned Megan Koreman (“MK”), to write a scholarly history of John Weidner and the Dutch-Paris line using the original documents contained in the Foundation’s Weidner Collection, which at the time was not open to the public. The Authorship Commission Agreement signed by MK stipulated: “All research notes, source lists, and any products of MK’s work such as outlines chapter drafts, and personal notes shall become the property of JHWF [the Foundation].”  The Foundation, as the legal property owner of “any products of MK’s work” by the terms of the Authorship Commission Agreement, does not permit any secondary uses of The Escape Line (or Gewone Helden, or Foundation commissioned and funded research), including optioning for film or television, without its express written authorization.
  3. The Weidners in Wartime by Janet Holmes Carper (“JHC”). The Weidner correspondence was published by the Foundation in 2020. By the terms of the October 31, 2019 agreement between JHC and the Foundation, “Publisher [the Foundation] is further granted the exclusive right, on a world-wide basis to sell or license, the use of the Work and to have derivative works created or otherwise exploit the Work in whole or part, for the purpose of film, television, theater, music or other visual and/or dramatic arts and media, as well as any derivative works or products related to the above…”

Weidner Collection Rights

  1. Before his death, JHW and NW worked to establish the Foundation as a nonprofit organization, which was originally centered at Atlantic Union College (“AUC”) in Massachusetts. On October 19, 1993, JHW and NW gifted to AUC a collection of approximately 100 boxes of correspondence, photographs, historical documents, and other materials that were privately owned by JHW (“Collection”/”Archives”) and that contain the life story of JHW and history of Dutch-Paris. In May 2011, full and exclusive ownership of the Collection was transferred by AUC to the Foundation.
  2. On January 31, 2013, the Foundation and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University (“Hoover”) jointly signed a Deed of Gift for the Weidner Collection with certain terms and conditions. The Foundation retained the full intellectual property rights to the Collection. The Foundation does not claim any right to license the life story rights or to waive any rights of privacy of any persons mentioned in Collection documents other than John (Jean, Johan) Henry Weidner. The terms of the Deed stated: “Hoover may retain the materials for non-commercial purposes only. Such limitation is aimed at but not limited to documentary, movie, film, or any other legally cognizable form for generating money”; and “Hoover will seek permission from the Foundation for any commercial use or any other use not covered by the license. Hoover will inform researchers that for any use of the Archives beyond those which are permitted under the fair use provision of the copyright law, written approval from the Foundation must be obtained.”
  3. Fair use provisions of copyright law include “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes,” and “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work” (U.S. Copyright Law Section 107).

For the above reasons, it is the Weidner Foundation’s legal position that third parties are not permitted to commercially exploit or option, including for film or television, John Weidner’s life story rights, the abovementioned publications, any Foundation commissioned and funded research, and/or Weidner Collection documents, films, and photographs, without the express written authorization of the Foundation.

The John Henry Weidner Foundation for Altruism is represented by Venable LLP.