Scott Fizgerald's short story "Afternoon of an Author" mentions "silent rights" and "sound rights" in regards to copyright.

Anyhow he had no more equity in that property — he had sold the silent rights many years ago and the sound rights last year.

As I understand this, he first sold rights "unofficially", "silently" without signing any papers. And last year he sold rights completely.

Or maybe "silent rights" means rights to make silent film (because main character seemingly sold rights to Paramount, so they could make a movie about his book) and "sound rights" means rights to make film with sound.

But all of this is just thoughts, I don't have any clue about what this means and searching doesn't help.

  • the silent rights would not refer to the manner in which the rights had been sold. It is not an adverbial phrase. It is a noun phrase and is the direct object of the verb in your sentence. In that noun phrase, silent is an adjective modifying rights. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 6 '18 at 11:23

I would agree with your second interpretation that this is a case of having sold the copyright to a story twice, once for a silent movie, then again when "talkies" became popular.

I can only find one direct references to both of these as idiomatic phrases, but the context reads perfectly.

From a legal paper with the rather long-winded title
Couch Potatoes Beware: The Ninth Circuit's Exclusion of Videocassette Exhibition Rights from Licenses Granting Television Exhibition Rights May Decrease the Availability of Rental Films

Searching both references in that brings you to a legal argument about both sets of rights to a story & whether they could be claimed by the same company.


The defendant, Fox Film Corporation ("Fox"), then purchased the silent rights from Principal Pictures and obtained a quitclaim conveyance from the novelist.


The approach is consistent with L. C. Page, where that Court held sound rights were within the ambiguous penumbra of motion picture rights.

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