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Do you have to worry about people stealing your idea if you share with just anyone? (2 Viewers)

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ironpony

Senior Member
Some writers wanted to read my script, and I show it to readers in a closer circle, but should I share it with just anyone if it's not registered for copyright? They say that anyone can steal an idea so why not share it, but there have been cases where it's happened such as the big lawsuit over the Thunderball novel way back for example.

So I am just wondering, how safe is it if you haven't registered for copyright if anyone knows?
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Copyrighting is easy and costs just 100 dollars, I think. I was once paranoid and had a similar mindset. But nowadays, I simply pretend in the back of my mind that it won't happen (the ideas being stolen). That is if I had perfected the english. But back then I was twenty (when I started writing) and not seriously writing anything. But for a screenplay it makes perfect sense, especially considered how much it is worth if sold. My uncle who is the only other writer and is a poet said that it happens all the time in poetry. When getting critiqued, most people won't do this. I know very little of what gets copyrighted nowadays. You don't need a lawyer I believe contrary to what everyone is thinking. Just make sure what you wrote is close to final to register for a copyright. That was many years ago that I was curious in answering the same question. This is just an opinion.
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I'm not a copyright expert, but I would say be careful who you share it with. Get it copyright, and even then be careful. Whereas words can be copyright, you can't copyright ideas. And from what I've seen you've spent a long time developing some unique plots, characters, and ideas.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Okay thanks, but if the people I share it with have advice on to make it better, and I end up changing say 80 percent of the story as a result, it it worth even copywriting then if you have to change it around on rewrites, and then would just have to get it copywritten again anyway?

Also, if the other writers online, only ask to see the outline of the story at first, you cannot copywright the outline, is that right? When you say ideas can be stolen, can executions be stolen too, such as the same plot points and character decisions throughout, beat for beat, even if it's worded differently?
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
When we get the Resources area up, I'll be sure to have one that explains Copyright. Copyright is secured on creation of a work. Then comes the tricky part: Can you prove you created the work, and when? Registration does that, but so does any verifiable publication or electronic record. Note that the wives' tale about mailing a copy to yourself is not valid.

If someone coopts your work, you can terminate their use by proving copyright. If you have registered the Copyright, you can sue for damages. It's very simple, and something every writer should learn early, just as every driver should know how a traffic light works. :)
 

ironpony

Senior Member
I can copywright it. But what I don't understand is, what's the point of waiting till the final rewrite to do it, when you are just going to share it with others, get feedback and make changes to the story anyway? Wouldn't it make sense to get it copywritten at an earlier draft therefore?
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
What copyright accomplishes is protect the characterization or the character's unique intellectual property which comes from you (likeness to a character, so visual aspects play a part as are the names of the characters-imagine trying to copy Mickey Mouse). So character's names and maybe even their unique roles in the plot and more I am not aware off. Plot can be copied but if you can prove it as vranger suggested that they copied it by plagiarism, going word by word and copying key parts. I would say it is still worth it. If you get a good title as well you can prevent them after it is a successful hopefully from capitalizing on copying your story. It could help maybe with providing an injunction against something that seems to be too similar. The more unique your story is I doubt it could be copied successfully. Look up Rowling's example of copyrighting the muggles or the people not born with magic. They gave her that copyright. If properly protected like that, it is a key part of the plot people will recognize. Her whole plot could be attributed to the muggles and the mud bloods. Understand what copyright protects and what it does not. You might need to search for it. It's a little more complex than what we are saying, I am going to be supposing. I read somewhere that she gave that copyright protection, so she would not have clones as her competition, and so she succeeded in that regard. Read up on it.
 
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ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay thanks I can do that. Do you think I should copywright it now, even though it's not at a final rewright yet and I still may make changes?
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I say, since it is a screenplay and if you don't mind spending the money, do it if you think the benefits outweigh the risks. 100 dollars is not a lot if you can buy protection, work, and it helps that they can't do anything regarding plagiarizing the characters. Most people in your position would do the same thing after so much time spent correcting it and writing it. I assume because you are even more protected than before. But that is just my opinion, and is only one of many on the forum.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
I can spend that money it's just that if I do then get more people's opinions on it from online, then make rewrites based on that advice, how many more times will I have to be copywright it based on the rewrites after. That's my concern, money wise or at least I want a plan first.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Taken verbatim from a website on why it is important: That means before you send your script out to production companies, prospective agents, and contests, you should copyright your screenplay.

Send parts of it to each person, but not the complete version as an alternative.
 

ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay, but are you saying to get it copywritten before I send out parts to each person, or after their advice on any changes to make? Also, what if readers want to see the whole thing, because they said they could give me better advice and critiques, if they see the entire story as a whole?
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Then you have no choice but to weigh the pros and the cons of that.

To expand upon the benefits conferred upon owners of registered literary works, the following rights are exclusive to literary copyright owners of registered works:

  1. To reproduce the copyrighted work
  2. To make derivative works (i.e. prequels, sequels, plays, web series, etc.)
  3. To distribute copies of the work (through sale, assignment and licensing arrangements (the bread and butter of monetizing your works)
  4. To publicly perform the copyrighted work; and
  5. To publicly display the copyrighted work.
I think you would have no choice.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Yes, that is what I said and that is my position on this. There's too much to gain than to lose than if you don't. You don't have to worry to whom you send it to, and it will be protected from anyone that tries to steal your work or who tries to imitate it. There won't be any uncanny resemblances before or after rewrites. Getting better protection is more important than wasting 100 dollars. To sell your script in the future, the same applies. When you have written the final draft or subsequent. Scripts are easy to steal and could be for all we know worth stealing if the work is more than capable. Not that I would do that, but there are people who would. After all people want to earn money and to make a living. No one has to prove they wrote it. The burden of proof is the copyright. Your profits will be much more than the loses if it sells or the lessons or experiences. Make sure it is your best draft. Think of it as being the same idea as having an insurance in case all your efforts do not work to after getting feedback since someone stole your work after beta reading. It's a big waste of money to work on a manuscript as well. It's quite a gamble since you can do other things to earn money in life when you are working on a script. Time is money.

It costs 35-55 dollars by filing it in the American copyright office and not 100 like it did before I think. The more character driven your story is the better protected it is. If your character for example has a dominant trait, I can imagine that being true.

Sounds like a great deal for just a mere $35-$55 to file such registration right?

So even though it is a good idea to register your scripts with the WGA, it is better to register your literary works with the U.S. Copyright Office to have the ability to enforce your rights under U.S. Copyright law.
Source: https://screencraft.org/2019/11/12/5-things-screenwriters-should-know-about-copyright-law/
 
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ironpony

Senior Member
Oh okay thanks. I was also wondering, if I get it copywritten in my country, but I send it out to a person to critique who lives in another country, does the copywright count in that other country then? For example, I am Canadian, but if American or British readers/writers, read it, is it still protected?
 

Turnbull

Senior Member
In business law class they teach that anything written is already copyrighted without having to do anything. It's your intellectual property. The only impetus is that you have to be able to prove you're the one that wrote it. So technically you don't have to register it. I've heard that mailing a sealed manuscript to yourself can work, but it's not the best way.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans

Preparing your application for registration​

Application forms​

You can obtain application forms online, at the Client Service Centre or from a regional Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada office. You can file your application electronically, by mail or by facsimile.

You can obtain a registration of copyright by filing an application accompanied by the appropriate fee. Please do not send a copy of your work with the application. The Copyright Office does not review or assess works in any way.

It is free. For the United States, you would have to do it separately. I don't know how to do this yet in Great Britain.

Source: https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipoi...wr02281.html#preparingApplicationRegistration
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Even if you can prove you wrote it first, If someone steals your ideas, you have to be able to prove there was a connection and not just a coincidence. And there are many aspects of your work that are not protected under copyright. I understand your dilemma because you want to make it the best it is, by getting feedback, and perhaps from other professionals. But the risk will always be there even if copyright.

This article written by Mark Liwak sets out the perils of sharing your work and copyright infringement, particularly that of screenplays.

"A copyright does not protect story ideas, concepts or themes. Such elements are not protected whether they are in a writer’s head, written down on paper, or published. Ideas are as free as the air."

What copyright law protects is the “expression of the author.” This is the particular manner in which the writer tells the story, his approach to the material, his voice. In other words, what is protected is the embellishment on the idea, not the idea itself.

Consequently, others are free to borrow uncopyrightable elements from your work. They can extract ideas, concepts, historical facts and other non-copyrightable elements. But if they borrow your expression, then they have crossed the line. Granted it may be difficult to tell when an idea has been sufficiently embellished upon that the resulting work is considered an expression of an author and protected under copyright law."


 
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