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Images from Candace Bushnell's Facebook page (left) and HBO Max's Facebook page
Images from Candace Bushnell's Facebook page (left) and HBO Max's Facebook page

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Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell's evolving strategies for her IP

The Sex and the City franchise is set for yet another go at the zeitgeist via a 10-episode series titled And Just Like That. Leading ladies Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis are reprising their roles, while Kim Cattrall is not returning this time. But while this core four are probably most associated with Sex and the City these days, it is author Candace Bushnell who made this phenomenon possible. And she appears to have mixed feelings about how her intellectual property has taken a life of its own.

Sex and the City was the title of a book written by Bushnell. It was released in 1996 and was a collection of the columns she wrote for The New York Observer newspaper. That same year, she reportedly sold the rights of the book to producer Darren Star for US$60,000.

The TV adaptation that debuted two years later turned out to be a huge success, and spawned two movies and now this revival TV series. But Bushnell does not seem to have profited very much from this success. As Deadline reports, Bushnell once said that “she’d taken the opportunity to cash out long before Sex And The City took off and said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that she’d ever see a dime from its syndication”.

That apparently doesn’t mean she doesn’t get any money from the continued iterations of her original IP. Speaking about And Just Like That, she told People magazine: “I hope it runs for six seasons. I get paid a little bit of money."

Still, there appears to be some ambivalence on her part about the franchise. In one of her novels, Killing Monica, she wrote about a novelist who gets over-shadowed by an actress who plays one of the novelist’s characters.

As Time magazine noted, the book “reads like a fairly unhappy comment about life in the shadow of one’s own creationThe real tension, unfortunate at best, comes from framing a character seemingly styled after [Sarah Jessica] Parker as the delusional thief of a writer’s intellectual property, rather than as an actress doing her job”.

Many creatives can certainly identify with Bushnell’s decision to profit at least modestly from their IP when such opportunities arise, especially early in their careers. After all, who can say for sure whether a better deal will ever come along? But as her example also shows, seeing your ideas take off and generate exponentially more prestige and profit for others can be a bittersweet experience.

For Bushnell at least, there have been more chances to take firmer ownership of her IP in subsequent projects. And recently, she decided to retain the theatrical rights for one of her books for the very first time. The book is titled Is There Still Sex in the City?, and she has now turned it into her first one-woman stage show, and is telling her own story in the flesh.

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