Why I’m Selling My Motion Picture Rights to iWoz, Steve Wozniak’s Bio

Written by Gina Smith

It’s the ideal gift for the geek who has everything. But here’s why Gina Smith is really selling her half of the motion picture and TV rights for iWoz, the Steve Wozniak biography she wrote with the Apple inventor and co-founder.

aNewDomain.net — I decided last week to sell my half of the jointly owned copyright to the movie rights for iWoz: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It (Norton 2007/2013). The book is the biography of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak — I had a blast interviewing him and writing it in his voice. Steve is brilliant. He’s fun. He played endless practical jokes on me and everyone while we worked. I am used to salted coffee now, for instance. Steve makes writing fun.

That’s why it’s a little hard for me to part with the movie rights to the Wozniak story I worked so hard on crafting from piles and piles of our transcripts and interviews. But I’m doing it for the same reason I moved from San Francisco to the Southwest last year: so I could increasingly focus my energies, time and money on re-invigorating journalism. We’re doing that here at aNewDomain.net — and some proceeds from the iWoz film rights sale will go to the non-profit we are setting up to support similar endeavors.

The buyer of these rights could license non-exclusive rights to more than one movie or TV production. And, because the ownership follows U.S. copyright laws regarding jointly owned works, you’ll need to make accounting to Steve. You’re free to work alone on your production. I do recommend you jointly work with Steve — it’s an experience you’ll never forget.

iWoz - accordian cover (best)

Thinking about iWoz brings back a lot of memories. When we began the book, Steve warned me that I was just the latest of writers to try to get the story out of him. He’d returned plenty of advances, he told me. I told him I’d stick with him no matter what.

And I did. It paid off. We made sure the book reflected exactly the way Steve spoke, requiring hours of checking with tapes and transcripts after I completed the first draft. Lots of sitting around in Steve’s favorite BBQ pit reading the book aloud. And the fact checking …

iWoz - Gina & Steve

Our book hit the ground running on publication. It charged up The New York Times bestsellers list. It was one of the first books to appear on the Kindle. It’s in languages and countries all over the world.

When I began the iWoz project in late 2005, few locals in the San Francisco area even recognized him, allowing Steve to play crazy headgames and practical jokes on unsuspecting waiters, customers and passers-by. This always surprised me, considering that I knew Steve to be the inventor of the personal computer as we know it. Even though, at the time, his co-founder and old friend, the late Steve Jobs, seemed to be getting most of the credit for that.

I think the book changed things. After we published iWoz, Steve charmed U.S. audiences on Dancing with the Stars and had a so-called “romance” with comedienne Kathy Griffin.
iWoz - German cover

In the years since I wrote iWoz, things have changed for me, too. I led the team that brought BYTE magazine back from the grave. Once that project was done, we kept the band together and Jerry Pournelle, John C. Dvorak and I started aNewDomain.net. We’re now branching out aNewDomain in lots of directions …

Speaking of new directions, I’ve found my new digs here in beautiful Tulsa, OK, ideal for raising kids and raising the bar in journalism. I’ve finally come around to the idea that a profit motive all too often gets in the way of good journalism.

I’ve known of too many media sites that turned sour the moment big money was injected into them. I don’t know if something like the BBC would be the best answer for America but one could do a lot worse — and worse is often what happens when the bottom line becomes more important than news copy.

iWoz - Japanese cover

And this is why I’m selling my film, television and video rights to iWoz. I will use a portion of the money to build up the Society for a New Journalism, an organization that I began forming last year with attorney and my aNewDomain colleague Tom Ewing.

My hope for this society is that it can provide a rock-solid, trustworthy source for news for many generations in both print, video, and whatever multimedia news forms come along. I also hope this society will become a teaching and education resource for other media outlets.

It’s been my observation that when a new type of media comes along the people who are good at the new media need some work at basic journalism, journalism ethics and journalism principles. They learn eventually but it takes a while. So I’m hopeful that the society can provide programs that help make this learning curve shorter.

Here are a few details about the auction for the iWoz visual media rights. The basic auction is being conducted on eBay and you can find it right here.

The initial auction price is $500K plus 15 percent of the commercial proceeds. There are more terms in the agreement that the successful buyer must sign. Copies of the agreement can be obtained by emailing: iwozmediarights@gmail.com.

The full title of iWoz is — iWoz Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It.

My advisors used a number of ways to value the rights that I’m selling. The lowest number was not surprisingly a cost basis, but then again, I had to interview Steve for more than 1,000 hours to get his stories. Writing all this up in Steve’s voice took even longer. Applying my hourly rate for this amount of time ends up with a number that’s lower than the auction price but still pretty high. The highest numbers related to comparable productions. Movies about Steve Jobs, Wozniak’s late Apple co-founder, are out or in the making. Film rights for the most-recent movie based on Walter Isaacson’s book about Steve Jobs sold for a reported $3 million. As depicted in iWoz, Steve Wozniak’s life story is equally if not more compelling than is Jobs’ story in that it describes how the great inventor came up with the first personal computer. It is no exaggeration to say that Steve Wozniak is the Thomas Edison of the electronic age and will go down in history as such.

Of course, the successful buyer can use these rights to make not just one movie or one television program. These rights can be used to make multiple movies, multiple television programs, multiple documentaries, etc.

I own 50 percent of the rights to iWoz and Steve Wozniak owns the other 50 percent. The successful bidder does not need to reach agreement with Steve Wozniak for each commercial exploitation of the visual media rights, which are viable in perpetuity and cover TV, video and movies. But I do recommend you work together. Note: Per contract, Gina and Steve split the advance for the book 50/50 before its writing — and the royalty split between Steve and Gina for the text version of iWoz is 60/40, respectively.

Interested bidders must send an email to: iwozmediarights@gmail.com to obtain a copy of the complete sales agreement and other diligence materials. Documents pertaining to previous agreements between Gina, Steve and W.W. Norton & Company are also available to serious prospective buyers. I agree to protect the anonymity of the buyer if so requested. I recommend that the interested buyer has the means to attain agents, lawyers, and relevant industry executives as required for due diligence and commercial exploitation should their bid be successful.

We looked at a lot of information in setting the beginning price for the auction. Let me know if you think it’s too low or too high.

Half the motion picture, TV and video rights to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s biography, iWoz — the perfect holiday gift for the millionaire, billionaire, way cool startup, movie producer and/or geek who already has everything!

iWoz - black cover

iWoz - accordian cover (best)

Gina Smith is the New York Times best-selling author of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s memoir, ” iWoz Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It” (W.W. Norton, 2005/2007/2012). With John C. Dvorak and Jerry Pournelle, she is the editorial director at aNewDomain.net. Email her at gina@aNewDomain.net, check out her Google + stream here or follow her @ginasmith888.


  • Hey Gina!

    Three things:

    1. Tulsa?

    2. Purchase give you the right to be you in the 50/50 negotiations only? Curious.

    3. This popped up somewhere and was simply great to see you and gave me a chance to say hello. We go back a bit.

    Have a great weekend my friend.

    • Hey, Arnold. Tulsa! YES! And it’s snowing here : )
      Two, the presumption is the buyer will want to commercially exploit the book.
      Three, great to see you! How are you … glad you are here at anewdomain ; )

  • Gina,
    As someone who has known Woz for many years, I give you credit for accurately capturing his exuberant personality on paper. Sure, he had a role in that (including pranks), but we both know that someone had to do the hard work and sweat the details to get it into print. Thank you for dedicating the effort so that Woz’s enthusiasm and curiosity may inspire others to surpass him.

    Having adapted a couple non-fiction works into screenplays, it’s a big challenge to find a commercial angle for other than salacious content. I think the new media distribution models make it much more likely the type of story the two of you labored to produce will yield a compelling result.

    Lastly, saving journalism, or at minimum showing a way forward, is a very worthy quest. Frighteningly few Americans comprehend the distinction between journalism, opinion and PR. Disinformation has proven to be a very profitable business model. If only journalism could be so profitable…

    • Thank you for that comment. Channeling Steve was the challenge of a lifetime — but the most fun endeavor ever.

  • Arnold, a correction. The half of movie rights that I own follows US copyright law so yes, you’re right, the buyer would be free to create a movie or multiple movies or shows based on the book. But I still recommend they work with Steve because they’ll find it to be an unforgettable experience. Thanks for the note!