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Question on How Scripts are Protected

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#1 John W. King

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Posted 25 October 2015 - 03:50 PM

Hello all,

 

So I was talking to an actor about a film we were in the middle of shooting, and he told me about a director who said he was interested in my script and would like to read it, as well as meet me in person. 

 

This director, who's name is "Joe" for the purpose of this discussion (I don't want to mention his name as I've hardly even contacted him yet) is starting to carry some heavy weight in the independent industry; some of his films have been featured at Sundance and Cannes, etc. etc. 

 

My question is, can I trust him by sending my script to him? We're still in the middle of filming it, plus I'm just a student working with friends and the equipment I own. I would really like to meet this guy in person, but I'm wondering if there's any protection for me and my script if, in any case, he were to plagiarize it. 

 

Not that I believe Joe intends to do any of the sort, he has plenty of projects that are weighing him down right now, I'm just curious as to how this works in accordance with law. 

 

Thanks, 

John


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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 25 October 2015 - 05:07 PM

Step 1 would be to pay the 20 bucks and upload your script to the WGA, and they'll give you a registration number:

 

https://www.wgawregistry.org/

 

This proves you wrote it at the time you said you wrote it.

 

In answer to, can you trust him with your script?  The answer is, no, you can't trust anyone in show business.  Even the big studios have ripped off people's ideas on many occasions.  If it happens, it happens, all you can do is sue them.

 

R,


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#3 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 25 October 2015 - 10:22 PM

Basically there is no protection. You have to sue the studio to prove it was your idea. Most of the time, they will just steal one or two concepts and make something close but not incriminating. However, sometimes they just won't care and steal the whole thing lock, stock and barrel. They'll have someone tweak it and then make it over seas with a european production company. The WGA has no jurisdiction anywhere else, so there is zero protection outside of the US. They also won't fight for you unless there is really good evidence.

So there are two thoughts on this... one is to never tell anyone your ideas and the other is to not care. I personally like the not caring method because honestly, if you don't tell anyone, you'll never get valuable feedback and never get anything sold. The best screenplays are usually a collaborative effort with ghost writers, story/dialog editors and lots of tweaking through interactions from friends/family, to make something that works. It's nearly impossible to write something good enough at home, buy yourself and make a successful product out of it.
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#4 Richard Boddington

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Posted 25 October 2015 - 10:27 PM

 It's nearly impossible to write something good enough at home, buy yourself and make a successful product out of it.

 

I've done it twice now.  :)

 

R,


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#5 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 25 October 2015 - 11:19 PM

I've done it twice now.  :)


That's pretty cool, but it's also pretty rare.
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#6 John E Clark

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Posted 26 October 2015 - 12:19 PM

My question is, can I trust him by sending my script to him? We're still in the middle of filming it, plus I'm just a student working with friends and the equipment I own. I would really like to meet this guy in person, but I'm wondering if there's any protection for me and my script if, in any case, he were to plagiarize it. 

 

 

The basic recommendation is to register your script with the US Copyright Office, their electronic registration found here.

 

This provides the best 1) evidence that the work is yours, 2) the best options for any infringement that could possibly occur.

 

There is no 'protection' from plagiarism, there is only what one can do to recover damages.

 

The WGA registration does not have the same legal standing in US courts as does copyright registration, and in fact, you must register your work in order to file an infringement suit, regardless of the often quoted 'your work is copyrighted by the fact of you writing it down', an true fact in the US, but unfortunately, not enough to initiate a suit in court, which requires that you 'prove your ownership'... which is  copyright registration...

 

That said... too many people who are not major Hollywood writers, spend far, far, far too much time worrying about whether their work will be 'stolen', than just getting the film made, which will then allow one to perhaps meet with writing agents at fests, or submit one's spec work for agent consideration, and list fest works shown, or fest writing awards.


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#7 Mark Dunn

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Posted 26 October 2015 - 12:23 PM

OP, you might want to self-report or delete this thread now, or edit it, if you can, before your actor, or even 'Joe', reads this thread and finds out you don't trust him.

Just a thought.


Edited by Mark Dunn, 26 October 2015 - 12:24 PM.

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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 26 October 2015 - 12:31 PM

there is zero protection outside of the US

 

Well, they can still sue you. We do have litigation here, it just isn't the national sport.

 

P


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#9 Ivon Visalli

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Posted 26 October 2015 - 01:33 PM

Some good suggestions here already.  If you do meet with him, I would also suggest making notes after your meeting about what was discussed.  I would also make sure you have an e-mail trail that shows that you arranged a meeting and if/when you met with him.

 

I wouldn't be overly concerned about him ripping you off, but it can happen and you want to take reasonable precautions in case something does occur.


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