Jump to content


Photo

people will steal my ideas


  • Please log in to reply
18 replies to this topic

#1 Niki Mundo

Niki Mundo
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 166 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 April 2008 - 11:46 AM

This is my biggest fear since moving to Los Angeles. Not that I don't have a million others, but as a part-time script writer I fear that my few brilliant ideas for a movie are going to be stolen by studios,agents or random people.
I have worked on a historical script for a few months and I'm nearing completition. It's a unique angle on a hundred year old public domain story but it's MY story is so far as I wrote it etc..
My question is how worried should I be about this? I know I should copyright my script, register it with the WGA and not send it to every person via email in the L.A. area for reading but once it's completed I want the right people to read it, buy it with me attached to it and have it made. What I would have a siezure over would be I shop it around, nobody wants it and then a year later it's made and it's pretty darn close to what I wrote. Then I sue and then my career is over because I'm a problem-person to the industry.

Should I be worried? :unsure:
  • 0

#2 Walter Graff

Walter Graff
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1334 posts
  • Other
  • New York City

Posted 17 April 2008 - 11:53 AM

There are no promises in life. Even the best ideas you came up with are probably already down on someone else paper or being put down as we speak. If you do the right things, be honest, and life life posatively, you'll have nothing to worry aobut. Fear? Over what. How many lawsuits a day happen because of your senario? Sure they happen every now and then (most don't win) but I wouldn't worry. Just do your best, leave paper trails, register your work. No one wants to steal your idea, they just want good ideas. I pitched at least six TV shows about five years ago that are now on TV, but not by my hand. But I've moved on and while the concept is close, it's clear they didn't get it from me.
  • 0

#3 Alex Ellerman

Alex Ellerman
  • Sustaining Members
  • 228 posts
  • Other
  • Chicago

Posted 17 April 2008 - 12:01 PM

Generally speaking, no. You should not worry about anyone stealing your idea(s).

#1 there are no new ideas.
#2 it's much cheaper to buy your script for a studio than to steal it.

You should copyright it for prima facie evidence in a court case. Mailed copies are an urban legend, and the WGA is just a guild registration, not necessary, but won't hurt you. I won't say stealing never happens, but doesn't "The Incredibles" remind you more than a bit of a little franchise called "The Fantastic Four?" Aristotle says there are 36 dramatic situations; i'm guessing your ideas probably fall under one of his situations.

therefore: it's all in the execution.

Your ideas are possibly not as good as you think, your execution of them probably not as great as you think. the reason i say this is: if you were a great screenwriter, you would probably not be asking these questions. but be encouraged, go to LA, write, make movies, live life.
  • 0

#4 Niki Mundo

Niki Mundo
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 166 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 April 2008 - 12:03 PM

There are no promises in life. I pitched at least six TV shows about five years ago that are now on TV, but not by my hand. But I've moved on and while the concept is close, it's clear they didn't get it from me.

What?! At least Six?! Moved on have you? I'd move beneath their car and grab some legs, pull them down and stab their face. That's me. Aaaaaaah! Ahhhh! ummm.. I really shouldn't be in this business should I?
  • 0

#5 Walter Graff

Walter Graff
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1334 posts
  • Other
  • New York City

Posted 17 April 2008 - 12:17 PM

What?! At least Six?! Moved on have you? I'd move beneath their car and grab some legs, pull them down and stab their face. That's me. Aaaaaaah! Ahhhh! ummm.. I really shouldn't be in this business should I?


Who knows. Just know you are going ot see your idea a hundred times. Don't take it perosnally. Your not the only one who thinks.

Example of what I was saying. I pitched a show about seven years ago. It was a simple concept, have a bunch of gay men walk the streets making over strait guys. The response was that it was fun but a show like this would cause furor with the gay community with stereotypes and all. A few years later, I noticed a program called Queer Eye for the Strait Guy. It's all about timing. Don't take it personally, just move on. Around that same time I pitched an idea for a show that had lie detectors and made folks reveal intimate secrets with their family present. This year the biggest hit in six countries is that same concept. I got a million of them. It's all about timing.
  • 0

#6 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5070 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 17 April 2008 - 12:34 PM

Documentary ideas are a lot more likely to be stolen than feature scripts (especially well written ones). I know of a few documentary proposals put in over the years that ended up being made by a broadcaster's in house producers. With at least one of them, the only way they would've known about it was through the proposal.

The studios insist that you use an agent for feature scripts anyway.
  • 0

#7 Walter Graff

Walter Graff
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1334 posts
  • Other
  • New York City

Posted 17 April 2008 - 12:44 PM

and the WGA is just a guild registration, not necessary, but won't hurt you.



Actually it's about all you need to do to proove that you wrote something and when in court. You don't need to copyright your work with the copyright office. Just have some independent record of when it was written. That's what the Guild does it for. The WGA registration is a legal in court as is offical copyright. And better because you can continuously add revisions to what you have easier than copyright.

But fear not. This is a industry where people are rewarded for what they wirte, not a bunch of monkeys with bones in their hands clobbering folks over the head for a script.
  • 0

#8 Alessandro Machi

Alessandro Machi
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3318 posts
  • Other
  • California

Posted 17 April 2008 - 01:03 PM

I know a couple of people who pitched ideas to their connections, and the ideas ended up on television, and they were never credited. It happens. I know a producer who pitched a television special to a network and the network switched the holiday the special would made for, and cut this person out. The rationale was, you pitched a Thanksgiving theme, we went with a summer theme....bla, bla, bla... (yes, the same performer was featured).

However, what I like about what you are doing is you are basing your script on actual historical research.

If you can get a couple of professors from academia to read your script and give you a supportive quote, that might really help you in many ways. I would do that before trying to sell it to Hollywood.
  • 0

#9 Walter Graff

Walter Graff
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1334 posts
  • Other
  • New York City

Posted 17 April 2008 - 01:08 PM

No one pitches anything in television before signing an agreement that says the company you are pitching to may be working on a project similar to yours and that you have no recorse if you see a similar project appear sometime later. I know many in television who do the buying of said shows and I can tell you they have no need ot steal from someone. They may remember ideas and incorporate them into their programs, but hey life sucks. And my fridns who read scripts for a living say the same thing, why steal it, just pay for it.
  • 0

#10 Paul Bruening

Paul Bruening

    (deceased)

  • Sustaining Members
  • 2858 posts
  • Producer
  • Oxford, Mississippi

Posted 17 April 2008 - 01:53 PM

Hey Niki,

This has been a problem with intellectual property all along. That's why copyright laws can only cover written manifestations (in the case of scripts). There's no legal way to protect ideas. The standard way for people to protect their ideas is to place them in written form and file them with the copyright office at the LOC. Here's the link:

http://www.copyright.gov/

You click around for the instructions and fees. You can get a PDF doc that fills in right on the web page and print it out. Add a check for the fees and throw your script in the mail.

Even if you file, there is so much room in the human brain to make variations on any existing work that fundamentally, the same idea can find a gazillion unique manifestations. However, if your filed work is good enough then a money-man will not bother stealing it and will simply buy it.

Therefore, learn how to write well; write your ass off; get an agent; sell your stuff.

Your other choice is to simply make your own movies. That's a tough challenge as well. But occasionally, someone, here or there, pulls it off.
  • 0

#11 Niki Mundo

Niki Mundo
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 166 posts
  • Student
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 April 2008 - 01:59 PM

Who knows. Just know you are going ot see your idea a hundred times. Don't take it perosnally. Your not the only one who thinks.

Example of what I was saying. I pitched a show about seven years ago. It was a simple concept, have a bunch of gay men walk the streets making over strait guys. The response was that it was fun but a show like this would cause furor with the gay community with stereotypes and all. A few years later, I noticed a program called Queer Eye for the Strait Guy.

Wow. Walter Graff.. creator of "Straight Eye for the Straight Guy". We all know now.
  • 0

#12 Walter Graff

Walter Graff
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1334 posts
  • Other
  • New York City

Posted 17 April 2008 - 02:06 PM

Wow. Walter Graff.. creator of "Straight Eye for the Straight Guy". We all know now.


I got that an a hundred other ideas from my years doing makeover shows as field producer on such talk TV programs as Ricki Lake. We did everything that became reality TV years later including gay men doing over strait guys but in an hour format. In fact one of my comrades on the show is now one of the most successful reality creators out there. He once confided in me that it was easy, he simply took our one hour show ideas from Ricki Lake and pitched them as series. Today I think he has three first run programs running now and four in reruns.
  • 0

#13 Brian Drysdale

Brian Drysdale
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 5070 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 17 April 2008 - 02:13 PM

"This has been a problem with intellectual property all along. That's why copyright laws can only cover written manifestations (in the case of scripts). There's no legal way to protect ideas. The standard way for people to protect their ideas is to place them in written form and file them with the copyright office at the LOC. Here's the link:

http://www.copyright.gov/

You click around for the instructions and fees. You can get a PDF doc that fills in right on the web page and print it out. Add a check for the fees and throw your script in the mail."



Just to say, some countries don't have a copyright office, so you have to use the other methods.

Edited by Brian Drysdale, 17 April 2008 - 02:15 PM.

  • 0

#14 Chad Stockfleth

Chad Stockfleth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 622 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Louisville, KY

Posted 17 April 2008 - 03:43 PM

Good Luck!

Posted Image
Posted Image
Posted Image
  • 0

#15 John Sprung

John Sprung
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4635 posts
  • Other

Posted 17 April 2008 - 03:52 PM

My experience has been that if an idea is really really good and original, it won't be stolen. You can't even give the damn thing away. ;-)



-- J.S.
  • 0

#16 Richard Boddington

Richard Boddington
  • Sustaining Members
  • 5482 posts
  • Director

Posted 17 April 2008 - 07:21 PM

Great post Chad!

I have an idea for a YouTube video that can be watched by film types.

An indie filmmaker goes into the swanky offices of a distribution company to try and get them to sell his film. Except it becomes apparent early on that these distributors are actually bootleggers and they don't want to take the guys video no matter how much the filmmaker tries to convince them!

So it goes like this:

Filmmaker: Why won't you bootleg my video?

Bootleggers: Well we just don't feel it's the right fit for us.

Hilarious, eh?

R,
  • 0

#17 Alex Ellerman

Alex Ellerman
  • Sustaining Members
  • 228 posts
  • Other
  • Chicago

Posted 17 April 2008 - 11:41 PM

Actually it's about all you need to do to proove that you wrote something and when in court. You don't need to copyright your work with the copyright office. Just have some independent record of when it was written. That's what the Guild does it for. The WGA registration is a legal in court as is offical copyright. And better because you can continuously add revisions to what you have easier than copyright.

But fear not. This is a industry where people are rewarded for what they wirte, not a bunch of monkeys with bones in their hands clobbering folks over the head for a script.



Walter - I promise you, you have this backwards. The WGA is less important. anything you write in fixed form is indeed copyrighted, but it is MUCH more important to have this logged with the US copyright office and to have prima facie evidence in court. One is the US govt., the other is a small organization that has historically gotten worked by the studios during negotiations. Any lawyer will confirm this advice in spades.

if you're not a dues paying member of the WGA, i'm not sure they will help you.
  • 0

#18 Walter Graff

Walter Graff
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1334 posts
  • Other
  • New York City

Posted 18 April 2008 - 06:34 AM

And you've been involved with how many cases of litigation involving intellectual property? From your post it is clear the answer is none. Here is a fact. In most cases of intellectual property, it's not about what organization you register your property with, it's about having legitimate proof of a completion date of your work. That is what the WGA offers. You do not have to be a member of the WGA to register a property. And if not a member this service will offer you the same recourse and resource as it would for a WGA member. The purpose of their site is to offer you a legitimate and legal way to register not any less legal than the US copyright office. All writers, WGA members or not, have been using the service for some time. It is standard operating procedure for all legitimate writers I know, guild members of not. Some cases of litigation (mine included), have involved the proof of registration of property through the WGA which I'm sorry to inform you is as legal as any other form of registration. Yea our lawyers told us that when we hired them, and the court verified that when we won judgment to prove date of authorship. And you have registered how many pieces of your work with the WGA or US copyright office?? And do you know what they give you when you do? And you know how to use that info in court when ownership and or the creation of a piece of intellectual property is called into question?

For those of you who know little about this area, read the FAQ's from the guilds site on registration so you will have more accurate information to go on rather than some of the erroneous info in this thread:

http://www.wgawregis...qs.html#quest14
  • 0

#19 Alex Ellerman

Alex Ellerman
  • Sustaining Members
  • 228 posts
  • Other
  • Chicago

Posted 19 April 2008 - 01:52 AM

Walter - I don't need to qualify for you nor brag on a message board... You have made a textbook ad hom attack on me. I was never rude. After David's repudiation of your behavior, you cleaned up your act, however short lived... Maybe you have trouble being wrong? well... here comes trouble.

I'll keep this short and provide links from professionals to back my assertions in lieu of your "advice." the links below confirm my assertions.

unfortunately, I've already bought your DVD on lighting; hopefully your lighting acumen exceeds your knowledge of writing. My advice to you, however, is both good and free.

*i'm also a repped writer who has registered plenty of my work. I haven't had to litigate my work, possibly b/c, unlike Walter, I registered it properly.

--------------------------------------
http://www.writersst...articles_id=124
http://www.zernerlaw.../newsletter.htm

First, although copyright protection exists at the moment of creation, registration with the Copyright Office is required before a lawsuit can be brought. Because it can take up to six months from the time the application is mailed to the Copyright Office until the application is processed and returned, if the writer needs to immediately file a lawsuit (i.e., in order to enjoin the movie's distribution), he must apply for an expedited registration, for which the Copyright Office charges an additional $580.

Second, if the writer registers the script with the Copyright Office only after the infringement has taken place, he will be barred from recovering attorneys fees or statutory damages in the lawsuit.

Third, if the script is registered prior to or within five years of its publication, the registration acts as prima facie proof of ownership of the script in the event of a trial. There is no such benefit from the WGA registration.

The only real advantage of the WGA registration is that, in the event of a lawsuit or a credit arbitration, the WGA will have an employee appear and testify concerning the date of the registration. But this is rarely an issue during litigation.

Therefore, if you are a screenwriter wondering whether to register with the WGA or the Copyright Office, the answer should be clear - always register your script with the Copyright Office, and, if you have the extra $10 or $20, register with the WGA as well. And if you have scripts in your drawer that you registered in the past with the WGA, but never bothered to register with the Copyright Office, now is the time to do so. Before the work is infringed.


http://www.sfwa.org/.../copyright.html
(excerpt) --partly because it's not necessary to register unpublished manuscripts, but also because WGA registration isn't a legal substitute for official copyright registration. If a literary agent recommends that you register your book manuscript with the WGA, be wary: this agent doesn't know much about copyright (something with which a good agent should be familiar).

Myth #7: Registering with the Writers Guild of America is an acceptable alternative to U.S. copyright registration. See above. WGA registration is not a legal substitute for official copyright registration.
  • 0


Opal

Willys Widgets

Glidecam

CineLab

The Slider

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Metropolis Post

CineTape

rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

Visual Products

Abel Cine

Technodolly

FJS International, LLC

Wooden Camera

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Aerial Filmworks

Ritter Battery

Paralinx LLC

Tai Audio

CineLab

rebotnix Technologies

Opal

Visual Products

FJS International, LLC

Aerial Filmworks

Willys Widgets

Tai Audio

Glidecam

Metropolis Post

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Technodolly

Ritter Battery

Abel Cine

Rig Wheels Passport

CineTape

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Wooden Camera

Paralinx LLC

The Slider