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Old 04-13-2020, 04:19 PM   #1
sidgrey
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Default Thought on scripts being stolen and used?

I have had my scripts available to download by "industry insiders" on sites like blklst and coverfly for some time now, and because they have done well in competitions, I get weekly notices that someone new has downloaded one of them.

I am becoming increasingly more worried because in the last few years a number of movies and shows have come out that are unbelievably similar to something I wrote (but just different enough where I probably couldn't prove it). Again, I don't have any proof of stealing because I don't even know who downloaded the scripts and it could be untraceable as in a producer downloads it, sends it to his favorite writer and tells the to "write something similar" blah blah.

What are your thoughts on this? As a writer trying to get repped and sell and break into the industry, this is frustrating and I'm wondering if my projects should even be "discoverable" on sites like this? But then again if they aren't, well then im even more invisible. Thank you.
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Old 04-13-2020, 05:21 PM   #2
catcon
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Default Re: Thought on scripts being stolen and used?

I'm the last one to advise you, given that I'm still trying to "break in", in the traditional view, but posting scripts for "somebody" to download is pretty passive, in my view.

You say you're looking for a rep (another semi-passive approach), and I've given up looking.

But what I'm getting to is that you need to connect (in person, if you can, or on-line, via email or LinkedIn, etc.) and sell yourself and your work.

Oh, and of course you're copyrighting everything you've written, right? Even if your stuff is stolen, and as you suggest it's far more likely that it might be "adapted" by somebody, with copyright protection you make friends with any attorney you end up with. Why? Because if you've registered the copyright then if ("when", hopefully) you win a plagiarism lawsuit, the attorney's massive fees are over and above the award. Lawyers love this.

All I'm saying is that even if you've gotten good results in contest placements and Blcklst scores, you're leaving your progress up to invisible downloaders right now.

Even without any sales, I've made some good buds, and very few enemies ("stop sending me emails"), via my on-line connections. The hope is that if/when I ever succeed I'm going to have lots of people in the biz to contact about helping out.

That is, I do find that in the film biz everybody wants to be involved, but they all want somebody else to go first. You need that one foot in the door, eh?

So get out there and sell your stuff via plenty of email queries; test their wording here under the appropriate topics on DDPro.

Got money? Do InkTip or VPF if you can afford it. Do more contests if you can afford it. Pay for LinkedIn if you can afford it. A free LI membership, as I have, lets you do plenty, with nearly 75 industry connections made so far.

But email is free. So is ScriptRevolution.com (and you don't have to publish the entire script; I only publish my query content).

And be patient, and professional.

G'luck!
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Old 04-13-2020, 07:34 PM   #3
TigerFang
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Default Re: Thought on scripts being stolen and used?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sidgrey View Post
I have had my scripts available to download by "industry insiders" on sites like blklst and coverfly for some time now, and because they have done well in competitions, I get weekly notices that someone new has downloaded one of them.

I am becoming increasingly more worried because in the last few years a number of movies and shows have come out that are unbelievably similar to something I wrote (but just different enough where I probably couldn't prove it). Again, I don't have any proof of stealing because I don't even know who downloaded the scripts and it could be untraceable as in a producer downloads it, sends it to his favorite writer and tells the to "write something similar" blah blah.

What are your thoughts on this? As a writer trying to get repped and sell and break into the industry, this is frustrating and I'm wondering if my projects should even be "discoverable" on sites like this? But then again if they aren't, well then im even more invisible. Thank you.
Quote:
Originally Posted by catcon View Post
... of course you're copyrighting everything you've written, right? Even if your stuff is stolen, and as you suggest it's far more likely that it might be "adapted" by somebody, with copyright protection you make friends with any attorney you end up with. Why? Because if you've registered the copyright then if ("when", hopefully) you win a plagiarism lawsuit, the attorney's massive fees are over and above the award. Lawyers love this.
How long is “some time, now”? Sometimes it takes years, even decades, for a film to be developed before it sees production. It’s uncanny how two screenwriters on opposite coasts of the United States can have similar storylines in their scripts at the same time. Is there a Universal Consciousness speaking to each of them? Who knows? It happens, though. If you think about it in the correct light, and given the constraints of a screenplay’s structure, the odds are good that it’s going to happen. Add to that all the imitative screenwriting of hit movies that goes on, it’s almost inevitable that people are going to have “eerily similar’” ideas for scripts.

Generally speaking—and most screenwriters will tell you you’re paranoid and what you’re implying doesn’t go on—it’s less expensive for people to option your screenplay and pursue it from there rather than risk a lawsuit. Those same screenwriters say to be worried about this is the telltale sign of the neophyte and inexperienced screenwriter, one who is overly protective and precious about his or her work.

On the other hand, if researchers found out that you did not register your screenplays with the U.S. Copyright Office (at $65 per script), then it could be open season on you, which is your fault. Registration with the WGA is less expensive, but offers little in the way of protection of Intellectual Property.

A good rule of thumb, one which many contests tout in their submission guidelines, is not to submit until you’ve registered your script(s) with the U.S. Copyright Office. That advice also applies to submitting your scripts to places other than contests.
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Last edited by TigerFang : 04-14-2020 at 12:19 PM.
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Old 04-14-2020, 05:41 AM   #4
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Default Re: Thought on scripts being stolen and used?

I used to register my scripts with WGAW before I had a dazzling epiphany moment, realizing no one in the business would ever want to steal 'em.

A paper trail -- or a software trail -- is going to offer you some protection, screenplays uploaded to sites you don't own have a date stamp on them, proving you wrote this. I'm not saying that's ironclad evidence but it's gotta put someone off pilfering your script.

Ideas can't be copyrighted though. If someone wanted to take your concept and re-do it as their own unique story, you're pretty screwed as regards making a claim on it.

Also no idea is unique, someone's going to come up with something similar no matter how much you protect your writing. A million wannabe screenwriters tapping on their keyboards, one of 'em is bound to write a near-identical story to yours sometime. It happens. Might have happened last week.
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Old 04-14-2020, 10:59 AM   #5
AK7576
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Default Re: Thought on scripts being stolen and used?

I’m not overly worried about it, yet I know some people it’s happened to.

Like --

One was a line producer who also wrote scripts (low budget) and found the very company who turned him down made his exact script and discovered it in the (then) VHS bin at Oddessy Video.

Another was a WGA award winner who had also headed a mini-major that made some very classic films back in the day (you’d think he’d have enough juice/friends but…)

Who together with a newcomer worked on a script, got it to a star, got in negotiations with a big 3 network and they ripped them off.

Eventually went to court and the very day the trial was to start they got made an offer they couldn’t refuse (he told me they expected to lose since the big 3 network got the star to turn on them).

And in the last few years someone told me about a spec similar to a produced film (again with notable stars, etc.) like this... [I changed some of the words to protect the innocent (me)]

Code:
SCRIPT A SCRIPT B But. We're not going to. But. We're not going to. All ears on Trump. All ears on Biden. SCRIPT A SCRIPT B Just to make it clear, there is Just to make it clear. There is absolutely no ****ing way we are going absolutely no ****ing way we are going to to do that. we are going do to that Ears still on Trump All ears still on Biden
And so on for 6 pages, from what I was told.

Same rep also had a different writer do a blatant knock-off of a classic Twilight Zone as a feature.

So look on the bright side, they have a lot of Rod Serling and others to go through before they reach you!

So stuff happens. Still… I guess the lesson is simply be so good they need you more than they need to rip you off.

Last edited by AK7576 : 04-14-2020 at 12:35 PM. Reason: Remove extra spacing between paragraphs
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Old 04-15-2020, 07:31 AM   #6
Pasquali56
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Default Re: Thought on scripts being stolen and used?

A long time ago, when I first started writing screenplays, I thought I was ripped off by a producer I had never submitted a certain screenplay to -- but he could have accessed my script through other means. I contacted an entertainment attorney to see if I had any case. He told me three things:
1. I would have to prove a definitive link (i.e. paper trail) showing that the producer did read my script.
2. In addition to proving a link, I would have to show that not only the concept was the same, but I'd have to make a long list showing specific similarities in terms of characters, scenes, structure, dialogue, etc.
3. Unless I had definitive proof of the link plus that list of very specific similarities, no lawyer would take my case on a contingency basis.

A WGA registration and/or U.S. Library of Congress copyright would be less important than the points above. I know people have been ripped off, but you can't worry about it or you'll never move ahead. You should still register your stuff and always keep a log of your submissions/rejections -- but keep writing and submitting. And remember that even though you may think your concept/script is one-of-a-kind, that's rarely the case. Unless it's based on a true story and you own the rights, chances are that someone else somewhere has written something similar.
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Old 04-15-2020, 10:42 AM   #7
finalact4
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Default Re: Thought on scripts being stolen and used?

I'm a skeptic. And a realist. Without proof, claims like this don't hold a lot of water with me. That's my own opinion. Nor do I give them a lot of weight if they are hearsay, and have nothing to back them up.

It can seem that writing is so similar that it seems stolen, but more times than not, nothing has been stolen. Does it happen? I don't know, I've never really seen a story that proved something WAS stolen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AK7576 View Post
I’m not overly worried about it, yet I know some people it’s happened to.

Like --

One was a line producer who also wrote scripts (low budget) and found the very company who turned him down made his exact script and discovered it in the (then) VHS bin at Oddessy Video.
What did this writer do about it? Stating that it's the EXACT script seems the writer would have a viable claim, right?

Quote:
Another was a WGA award winner who had also headed a mini-major that made some very classic films back in the day (you’d think he’d have enough juice/friends but…)

Who together with a newcomer worked on a script, got it to a star, got in negotiations with a big 3 network and they ripped them off.

Eventually went to court and the very day the trial was to start they got made an offer they couldn’t refuse (he told me they expected to lose since the big 3 network got the star to turn on them).
I'm not sure I'm understanding this statement clearly. Are you saying the writer lost out, because the network turned the actor on them? Or are you saying the network settled with the writer because the actor turned on the network?

If this was a civil suit, it would be in the public record as a filing, right?

It would have been in the trades (Deadline or THR) no? Can you point us to the case?


Quote:
And in the last few years someone told me about a spec similar to a produced film (again with notable stars, etc.) like this... [I changed some of the words to protect the innocent (me)]

Code:
SCRIPT A SCRIPT B But. We're not going to. But. We're not going to. All ears on Trump. All ears on Biden. SCRIPT A SCRIPT B Just to make it clear, there is Just to make it clear. There is absolutely no ****ing way we are going absolutely no ****ing way we are going to to do that. we are going do to that Ears still on Trump All ears still on Biden
Were the pages similar or exact. What you're showing above is EXACT. Changing a name is not changing the writing. So was it really exact?

And if it was, did the writer do anything about it?

Sometimes I can rewrite lines of dialogue and say the same thing in a variety of ways. Anyone else could do the same, but if someone used 6 pages of my script and I could prove that 1) my draft predates their draft, AND 2) they read my script before they wrote their draft and 3) it was EXACTLY the same, I would do something about it.

But if it's SIMILAR, and they had no access to my script, it doesn't mean anything to me.

Quote:
And so on for 6 pages, from what I was told.
I'd need to see proof before I repeated a story like this as fact. Otherwise the claim means nothing, really. Should be easy enough to prove.

Quote:
Same rep also had a different writer do a blatant knock-off of a classic Twilight Zone as a feature.
There's a difference between plagiarizing and writing something similar. Look at the movies Rear Window and Disturbia, which have very similar plots. Disturbia won the suit that claimed they copied Rear Window.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-d...68L00E20100922

So, there are different ways to look at "ripped off," I think.

Quote:
So look on the bright side, they have a lot of Rod Serling and others to go through before they reach you!

So stuff happens. Still… I guess the lesson is simply be so good they need you more than they need to rip you off.
Hard to say if it's true if there's no proof.
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Old 04-15-2020, 12:37 PM   #8
MargoChanning
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Default Re: Thought on scripts being stolen and used?

Quote:
Originally Posted by catcon View Post
I'm the last one to advise you, given that I'm still trying to "break in", in the traditional view, but posting scripts for "somebody" to download is pretty passive, in my view.

You say you're looking for a rep (another semi-passive approach), and I've given up looking.

But what I'm getting to is that you need to connect (in person, if you can, or on-line, via email or LinkedIn, etc.) and sell yourself and your work.

Oh, and of course you're copyrighting everything you've written, right? Even if your stuff is stolen, and as you suggest it's far more likely that it might be "adapted" by somebody, with copyright protection you make friends with any attorney you end up with. Why? Because if you've registered the copyright then if ("when", hopefully) you win a plagiarism lawsuit, the attorney's massive fees are over and above the award. Lawyers love this.

All I'm saying is that even if you've gotten good results in contest placements and Blcklst scores, you're leaving your progress up to invisible downloaders right now.

Even without any sales, I've made some good buds, and very few enemies ("stop sending me emails"), via my on-line connections. The hope is that if/when I ever succeed I'm going to have lots of people in the biz to contact about helping out.

That is, I do find that in the film biz everybody wants to be involved, but they all want somebody else to go first. You need that one foot in the door, eh?

So get out there and sell your stuff via plenty of email queries; test their wording here under the appropriate topics on DDPro.

Got money? Do InkTip or VPF if you can afford it. Do more contests if you can afford it. Pay for LinkedIn if you can afford it. A free LI membership, as I have, lets you do plenty, with nearly 75 industry connections made so far.

But email is free. So is ScriptRevolution.com (and you don't have to publish the entire script; I only publish my query content).

And be patient, and professional.

G'luck!
Catcon, I would love to hear how you use LinkedIn to make industry connections. Thank you.
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Old 04-15-2020, 12:38 PM   #9
MargoChanning
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Default Re: Thought on scripts being stolen and used?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sidgrey View Post
I have had my scripts available to download by "industry insiders" on sites like blklst and coverfly for some time now, and because they have done well in competitions, I get weekly notices that someone new has downloaded one of them.

I am becoming increasingly more worried because in the last few years a number of movies and shows have come out that are unbelievably similar to something I wrote (but just different enough where I probably couldn't prove it). Again, I don't have any proof of stealing because I don't even know who downloaded the scripts and it could be untraceable as in a producer downloads it, sends it to his favorite writer and tells the to "write something similar" blah blah.

What are your thoughts on this? As a writer trying to get repped and sell and break into the industry, this is frustrating and I'm wondering if my projects should even be "discoverable" on sites like this? But then again if they aren't, well then im even more invisible. Thank you.
I say this without an ounce of paranoia left in me, but I'm fairly certain I've been ripped off. In most cases, there's nothing we can do.
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Old 04-15-2020, 12:49 PM   #10
richfigel
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Default Re: Thought on scripts being stolen and used?

Warning: long post ahead. Everything others have shared is true. Usually, it's not worth it for producers to "steal" your script and you cannot copyright an "idea," which makes it possible for someone else to take that idea, change it just enough to avoid lawsuits, then take credit for it.

Not only has it happened to me, I spoke to veteran staff writers on hit TV shows and the writer of an iconic sci-fi movie who shared their experiences of being ripped off by producers and fellow screenwriters. I won't say who because they also said if they had gone public, there was a good chance they'd be blackballed and never hired again by producers who fear being sued.

I always assumed that entering contests was a safe way of putting my stuff out there and protecting it at the same time, since it would prove my screenplay was written and being read by other people. What happens though if your scripts are advancing in contests is that you get read by a lot of judges -- and people in the business that they might share your script with (usually they will ask you if that's okay).

So, many years ago I wrote a script about an aspiring actress in NYC who gets hired by a mysterious woman to be a nanny -- to a lifelike doll. Turns out the actress is being framed for the death of the woman's real baby, and the actress must elude police until she can find out why she was framed. Any similarities to SERVANT on Apple TV is "probably" a coincidence... which is ironic, since a woman who wrote and produced a movie about a girl who befriends a neighbor that treats a doll like it was a real baby, accused the makers of SERVANT of ripping her off. Her movie came out about 10 years after my script was a finalist in a number of contests and read by dozens of people in the business.

I could shrug it off as mere coincidence, except for something else that happened a few years ago. After that same doll script had made the contest rounds, I was watching LAW & ORDER. There was an episode in which a nanny was pushing a baby carriage and there was a doll in it instead of baby. Eh, no big deal. But then there were other scenes that seemed very similar to my screenplay.

So I googled the producers. Lo and behold, one of them was also a judge in a small contest my script was a finalist in -- and that same L&O producer was sued by another writer who had been a finalist in that same contest in a prior year. The writer lost in court.

Parallel development of ideas is common. Writers and artists read the same things or experience similar events. I also think that writers/readers in contests may come across scripts they feel have good ideas that aren't well executed, and they might take a stab at putting their own spin on it, or talk about it with their contacts in the business. Nothing you can do about that, especially if it's subject material in the public domain. The best you can do is try to make your script the best you can before you start sending it out for others to read, I guess.

I have another long story involving a sci-fi script that I have very good reason to believe was plagiarized, and consulted my former manager on taking action. She used to rep Tarantino, so she was ready to pull the trigger. However, that same TV series had ripped off other movies and writers to such a degree that I said, forget it. It's Chinatown, Jake. Sigh.

And yet, I think you have to take that risk and get your scripts out there, anyway you can to people who may be able to help your career.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. Fortunately, I've written other scripts that have been optioned or gotten me meetings with high level TV execs, and are still alive... provided someone else doesn't get something similar greenlighted before my projects!
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