Colton Harris-Moore May Get the Hollywood Treatment, But Not Necessarily Hollywood Dollars

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Won't you fly, free bird?
It's already been established that there's potentially a lot of scratch to be made from a Hollywood treatment of the Colton Harris-Moore saga. Which is the likely reason behind Fox's purchase of the rights to "Taking Flight: The Hunt for a Young Outlaw," Orcas Island scribe Bob Friel's planned book on Harris-Moore.

But even if Fox does actually green-light the flick, the Barefoot Bandit isn't likely to see any profit from it or Friel's book.

Friel won't say exactly how much he made off the sale to Fox, only that it was "certainly less than six figures." But neither he nor Fox are bound to provide Harris-Moore with a cut. Friel says that authors will occasionally enter into exclusivity agreements with their subjects. But Friel has no such agreement. And so long as the work is rooted in fact, or the subject's actions have arguably made them into a public figure, he says, journalists like himself can write about whomever they want.

Same goes for movie rights, says local entertainment lawyer Gano Lemoine. When buying the right to adapt a book like Friel's into a movie, studios generally aren't required to pay the people whose lives the movie is based on. And so long as the film doesn't diverge too far from the truth, Fox isn't required to pay Harris-Moore a dime for the use of his likeness.

On the other hand, movie studios are required to respect individual privacy, Lemoine says. In Colton Harris-Moore, you've got a guy whose crimes have made him an international cult hero--meaning he'd have a hard time persuading a court that Fox violated his privacy. Even so, studios will sometimes pay a person pre-emptively to save themselves the trouble of dealing with a lawsuit later, says Lemoine.

For that reason, Friel doesn't rule out Fox cutting Colton or his mom Pam Kohler a check. Just one problem in Harris-Moore's case: As you might have heard, he's a criminal and fugitive from justice.

The famous Son of Sam law prevents criminals from profiting in any way from their crimes. A number of states adopted similar laws after its inception in the late 70s, including Washington. But the original New York law was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. And Washington state's own law was successfully challenged in 2000 by none other than convicted statutory rapist Mary Kay Letourneau.

Ten years ago, Letourneau's lawyers persuaded a panel of judges from the Washington State Court of Appeals to follow the Supreme Court's lead and allow her to take a French publisher up on its bid for her tell-all. The court did. In return, she gave the world Un Seul Crime, L'amour.

In light of Letourneau's success, it behooves Harris-Moore to take the next, most convenient opportunity to turn himself in. By doing so he'll be giving himself one hell of a bargaining position as no one is likely to make a movie without Colton Harris-Moore's input if they can make one with it.

Conceivably, he could charge a truly disgusting amount of dough for his participation. And as a reportedly money conscious dude, can Colton really afford not to consider it?

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