PRIVACY and COPYRIGHT
I have developed many contacts and relationships over my years in the business in Hollywood. From time to time, I have referred exceptional scripts to agents, managers or studios—but only with the consent of the writer. I am not a manager or agent, so such referrals are rare, and StorySolver is not obligated to make referrals or recommendations.
Writers are understandably concerned about the possibility of theft of their intellectual material. However, the important business we’re dealing with here is not, “Will somebody steal my script?” but rather, “How can I get industry professionals to read it?” My goal and purpose is to help you get your script to a place where it is not only good, but also irresistible! That said, there are a few important points to be made about Privacy and Copyright:
Confidentiality is essential in our relationship. I will never discuss your work, or show it to anyone, without your written permission. It is conceivable that your story could be so similar to one of my own that it would constitute a conflict of interest—but this is extremely unlikely. If I think your story is too close to mine, or another, I will immediately inform you, and refer you to a different consultant.
Though “stealing ideas” is possible, and does happen, it is not a huge problem in screenplays. A story idea, like the blueprint for a house, has little value by itself. A house, once built, has great value. And a great screenplay, once written, after months and months of hard work, can also have great value. And also like a house, a marketable screenplay is difficult to steal—so much so that it is easier for a company to buy the script than it is to “steal” it. However, the simple precautions needed to protect the writer’s intellectual property should be taken.
1. You may register your script with the Writer’s Guild (See Links). Non-guild members pay $20. This service provides some proof of when your script was written, should such proof ever be needed in a dispute or litigation. This has actually happened to me (an unsubstantiated claim), and my handy Writer’s Guild Registration helped rebuff the claim quickly.
2. You may Copyright your work by submitting the appropriate forms / materials to the US Copyright Office (see Links). This service costs $30 and is preferred by lawyers. Note that ideas are not copyrightable, but works (treatments, scripts) are. I generally use Copyright and forego WGA registration.
Your work is protected under copyright law as soon as you write it. You may choose to protect it further by filing with the Copyright Office and/ or the Writer’s Guild.
It is typical for writers to sell scripts and later discover that the studio has hired another writer (or writers) to re-write it. Much more common than “theft,” is the issue of which writer contributed what and how much to a script that ultimately got produced. These disputes are subject to arbitration by the Writer’s Guild (or in some cases, litigation) and records (original notes, rough drafts, and subsequent drafts) are evidence of a writer’s contribution to the final product. This becomes extremely important because it determines who will receive screen credit, production bonuses, and residual payments. It is in your best interest to keep such records on file.
Retain any notes from meetings with producers, companies, studios, etc.
Keep dated copies of any “leave behinds” (treatments, outlines, sample scenes) that constitute intellectual material. In the highly unlikely event that you end up in some kind of litigation with another writer, a producer, or a company, these records will be very important in making your case.
I must emphasize that I am not a lawyer. If you have any questions or doubts, or feel your work is in anyway vulnerable to theft, make sure you consult with an appropriate attorney. _____________________________________________________________