Possible Stolen Script

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  • Possible Stolen Script

    Happy Holidays Everyone!

    Long story short, a major network is producing a show that sounds EXACTLY like my screenplay. The network released an extended log line(more of a paragraph) about the show. It's set in the same region, with a female character in the same line of work, concealing a family secret and the show even has the same unusual title... (there are additional details that are the same).

    I was out with this script just over a year ago to a few of the major management companies. The script went out to several financiers as a directing vehicle for myself. Momentum slowly died and it went nowhere.

    Question is... shall I contact the producers of the show myself first or lawyer up immediately? Any thoughts appreciated.

    The script is of course registered with the WGA, but more importantly I have a copyright on it.

    Thank you.
    Last edited by Travis; 12-28-2019, 07:53 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Possible Stolen Script

    Originally posted by Travis View Post
    Happy Holidays Everyone!

    Long story short, a major network is producing a show that sounds EXACTLY like my screenplay. The network released an extended log line(more of a paragraph) about the show. It's set in the same region, with a female character in the same line of work, concealing a family secret and the show even has the same unusual title... (there are additional details that are the same).

    I was out with this script just over a year ago to a few of the major management companies. The script went out to several financiers as a directing vehicle for myself. Momentum slowly died and it went nowhere.

    Question is... shall I contact the producers of the show myself first or lawyer up immediately? Any thoughts appreciated.

    The script is of course registered with the WGA, but more importantly I have a copyright on it.

    Thank you.
    My first instinct is to call bs. Of course, I have zero evidence that it is bs. Sure, lawyer up. But out of curiosity, what evidence do you have that it is stolen?

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Possible Stolen Script

      I would suggest contacting a lawyer first in a situation like this. Did anything actually get stolen? Who knows? Maybe. But very possibly not, too. Similar to almost exact ideas do come up - titles and story-lines. (I've had it happen to me as have many others.)

      If you truly believe something took place -there is no question in your mind- and you have the money to hire an attorney, then have an entertainment lawyer who knows copyright well too hopefully, look over your evidence and see if you have a strong case before doing anything or saying anything to anyone. (Obviously, you'll need to see their script too.) Contacting the producers will alert them there is an issue and most likely give them time to cover their tracks & lawyer up IF there is even a problem. Studios and networks deal with this stuff all the time.

      Make sure you have a great case, more than enough proof, etc. then you and your lawyer can decide if it's worth all the money to proceed or not from there. Even then, it could be a very long, tough & expensive road to go down.
      Will
      Done Deal Pro
      www.donedealpro.com

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Possible Stolen Script

        let is go to production... then come after them.

        They will may more likely settle a case and pay you out if they have already invested millions.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Possible Stolen Script

          Thanks for the feedback. It's difficult to know how to gauge this situation. Someone asked if I have proof. The "proof- is that the setting, storyline, lead character and title are the same. They are nearing production from what I understand.

          I've decided NOT to contact them. I'm going to get a lawyer.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Possible Stolen Script

            Travis, contacting an attorney at this point is premature. I suggest to wait to see how many details in their execution are similar. An attorney is going to want to know this information.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Possible Stolen Script

              Thanks, Joe.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Possible Stolen Script

                Originally posted by Travis View Post
                The "proof- is that the setting, storyline, lead character and title are the same.
                This means just about nothing to a case like this. 99% of these cases are pure coincidence driven by a combination of what's selling, what's in the zeitgeist etc. You need to show direct access, so was your script requested by anyone directly involved in the making of the show that is like yours?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Possible Stolen Script

                  Done Deal Pro gave you the right advice. Get a lawyer.


                  Aside from that, my non-lawyer comment is that you really need a copy of the script that may have been derived from yours. I think that this will all come down to form (similarity of their dialogue and action in comparison to your script) and opportunity (whether people connected with their script had some kind of contact with yours).


                  Just my opinion. Get a lawyer if you want to pursue this.

                  "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Possible Stolen Script

                    Originally posted by Travis View Post
                    Thanks for the feedback. It's difficult to know how to gauge this situation. Someone asked if I have proof. The "proof- is that the setting, storyline, lead character and title are the same. They are nearing production from what I understand.

                    I think it was about 10 years ago I was browsing the "deals" section of DDP, and there were three stories listed as sold, to three different prodcos, by three different writers, that were basically mirror images of one another. They revolved around something oddball like frisbee or chess or spelling bees which is why it stuck out at the time.


                    The chances that your situation is also a coincidence is very high. The chances that a major network stole your idea is very low.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Possible Stolen Script

                      Thank you all for the sound advice. I'm working on finding a connection(if any) between one particular management company and the network. Appreciate all the wisdom.

                      Happy Holidays

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Possible Stolen Script

                        Originally posted by Travis View Post
                        Thank you all for the sound advice. I'm working on finding a connection(if any) between one particular management company and the network. Appreciate all the wisdom.

                        Happy Holidays
                        I like detective work if you want to throw a case my way. Feel free to DM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Possible Stolen Script

                          Originally posted by Travis View Post
                          Happy Holidays Everyone!

                          Long story short, a major network is producing a show that sounds EXACTLY like my screenplay. The network released an extended log line(more of a paragraph) about the show. It's set in the same region, with a female character in the same line of work, concealing a family secret and the show even has the same unusual title... (there are additional details that are the same).

                          I was out with this script just over a year ago to a few of the major management companies. The script went out to several financiers as a directing vehicle for myself. Momentum slowly died and it went nowhere.

                          Question is... shall I contact the producers of the show myself first or lawyer up immediately? Any thoughts appreciated.

                          The script is of course registered with the WGA, but more importantly I have a copyright on it.

                          Thank you.
                          I know that it probably felt like a shock, but based on what you've said above there's nothing to indicate that someone stole your script. Perhaps there are more similarities?

                          Titles are not protected under copyright laws, so even if you connect the management company to your script the title similarity is meaningless.

                          Parallel development happens all the time. And even in the same year.

                          Armageddon vs Deep Impact
                          White House Down vs Olympus Has Fallen
                          Top Gun vs Iron Eagle
                          Tombstone vs Wyatt Erp
                          Executive Decision vs Air Force One
                          The Craft vs Little Witches
                          Murder at 1600 vs Absolute Power
                          Mission to Mars vs Red Planet
                          United 93 vs Flight 93
                          Skyline vs Battle: Los Angeles

                          Having a similar region for the setting and the main character having the same job title is NOT going to substantiate a stolen spec, it's just not. Sometimes stories can seem specifically similar but once you get into the exact execution they are not all that similar as they seem on the surface.

                          I'm not a lawyer, but hiring a lawyer on this little evidence seems premature as JoeNYC stated. You just don't have enough information and until you can prove that there are substantially exact elements, I can't see how this can possibly move forward.

                          The truth of the matter is, that if they wanted to copy something from your script, they would offer to buy it outright and simply negate the need to concern themselves with your script.

                          That's not to say, that someone couldn't have read your script a year ago, and in a notes meeting a year later think that they came up with an idea for a character or title when somewhere in their subconscious they pulled that bit of information out of a previous experience. I've watched a writer that read my script offer up an idea to another writer on a public writer's forum the very specific circumstance, setting and scene from my script thinking he was giving a "note suggestion," when actually it came from my script. That kind of error can happen. That doesn't mean it's deliberate.

                          You want to be very careful about how you proceed. The last thing you want to do is FALSELY accuse someone of something that turns out to be far fetched, because you could, more than likely, be immediately banned from ever submitting material to any of the people involved in that production.

                          I'm not saying do nothing, I'm saying be certain before you do anything, because it's highly unlikely that anyone stole anything from you.

                          Good luck,
                          FA4
                          "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Possible Stolen Script

                            Originally posted by Travis View Post
                            Thank you all for the sound advice. I'm working on finding a connection(if any) between one particular management company and the network. Appreciate all the wisdom.

                            Happy Holidays
                            I'll tell you now that the management company knows the network, so now what? You have to show that the manager sent it to the network, not just that they know each other.

                            Also, managers are in the business of finding writers, repping them and selling their work so if you were invited to submit your query (you didn't send unsolicited, did you?) then the manager had two choices:

                            1 - Sign this great new writer, sell their script to a network, generally make their dreams come true and be a hero and a rep with a hot new sold writer.

                            2 - Take that idea from the good script, give it to another writer (or however many it takes until someone wants to write it), wait for them to spec it, hope it's as good as what you read already, go through however many drafts that takes and then sell it while knowing that there's a potential lawsuit.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Possible Stolen Script

                              Originally posted by Northbank View Post
                              I'll tell you now that the management company knows the network, so now what? You have to show that the manager sent it to the network, not just that they know each other.

                              Also, managers are in the business of finding writers, repping them and selling their work so if you were invited to submit your query (you didn't send unsolicited, did you?) then the manager had two choices:

                              1 - Sign this great new writer, sell their script to a network, generally make their dreams come true and be a hero and a rep with a hot new sold writer.

                              2 - Take that idea from the good script, give it to another writer (or however many it takes until someone wants to write it), wait for them to spec it, hope it's as good as what you read already, go through however many drafts that takes and then sell it while knowing that there's a potential lawsuit.
                              Number two is simply not a realistic scenario. If a manager believes the script is worthy, he DOESN'T HAVE TO WAIT, it costs him nothing to send it out as is. A reputable manager, or even one that is NOT reputable, simply wouldn't take this chance-- at least not deliberately.

                              When you sell a script you have to state that you are the sole owner of the copyright, if it can be proven that you are NOT, then YOU will be liable for the lawsuit, not the studio or network.

                              And it will FOREVER tarnish your name in the industry.

                              There's no upside to stealing an idea of a script that you already like, when you can rep the writer or hip pocket it for free.

                              I don't believe anyone would take that risk. It's totally unnecessary.
                              "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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