I get this question a lot from fledgling screenwriters: I want professionals in the industry to read my script, but I want to insure my idea won’t be stolen, what should I do?
While I can understand some degree of nervousness about letting your baby out into the world, but if want people with influence to turn your script into a film don’t see your script, what good does that do you? At some point you have to let your script go, like a child, out into the world to be exposed to the light.
Here are some steps that may help calm your nerves and not have to take a xanax:
There’s the “poorman’s” or “poor woman’s” self copyright which involves sending the script to yourself via registered mail and not opening it, using the postage stamp date as a record of when you wrote the script. It probably will not hold up in court is somebody really wants to fight you, but it could frighten bottom feeding producers. It’s better than nothing.
You can copyright your script with the Library of Congress. The cost is approximately $35. Here’s a link to info on how to do this: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/sl35.pdf
You can register it with the Writer’s Guild of America and it costs $20. Here’s a link to their site: https://www.wgawregistry.org/.
Some writers talk about putting a contract in place before handing their script off to somebody. This contract is called a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). It basically says that the reader cannot discuss the script, it’s contents or even that they’ve read the script under penalty of law and possibly being sued. I cannot recommend this path because it could scare away your reader. Nobody likes being accused of being a possible idea thief. I’ll be honest, this usually scream amateur hour to the potential reader. Everybody like to feel that their script contains the most original ideas in the world and everybody will want to steal these special ideas but I have literally read thousands of scripts and I think I’ve read maybe 2-3 which have contained what I called a cool new idea for a movie that I had not seen before.
So, my advice is to relax and take a step back. Go through this list of questions or do the following research:
· Who is this person?
· Do you know them?
· Does your connection to the person know them well?
· Do they have a track record?
· What will you get out of this interaction?
· And this toughie because it requires self evaluation, is your script ideas so revolutionary that somebody would want to steal it?
In the end, you may just have to send them the script and hope for the best. Story ideas are rarely stolen because Hollywood is full thousands of writers pitching their of ideas everyday. Thousands of scripts are floating around on any given day, so the chance of somebody who looks for scripts or script ideas on a regular basis is going to swipe your concept is going to very remote. If it gets out that they are stealing concepts or scripts, they will most likely be sued and their career be damaged or just plain over. So, don’t be fearful about sending your babies out into the world. If you feed the need to copyright it or register it with the WGA those are options to give you some protection.
Written by Scott Spears