Screenwriting : FFS - Not again! by Anthony Cawood

Anthony Cawood

FFS - Not again!

Another one of my short scripts has been filmed without my permission and posted to Youtube, that's 4 this year! I've tried to contact the film maker, no response, so have had to revert to reporting it to Youtube. Youtube have just got back to me on email asking for more evidence that I have a copyright claim ;-( despite that film maker stating in her blurb that she used my script! I can't believe that people who are clever enough to make a short film do not understand what copyright means?!?! Anyway, rant over... till the inevitable next time.

Kyle Climans

How did this filmmaker get access to your script?

Christopher Binder

^^Second that.

Danny Manus

I do not understand how this is even possible?? howd they get your script?

Anthony Cawood

It was posted on my own site, on SimplyScriots and I think on here too. It says Copyright on the front and is WGA registered.

Beth Fox Heisinger

I'm so sorry this happened, Anthony!

Mikhail Zislis

WGA registration (on your part) and the inability to produce a release form signed by you (on the filmmaker's part) will surely do the trick. Also, your scripts are good enough to be used in this underhand fashion 4-5 times a year. Yay!

Jim Gurganious

Disturbing...

Beth Fox Heisinger

Perhaps Simply Scripts needs to make some changes, make it more clear?! It does look confusing, especially to those who just don't pay attention or who don't understand copyright—as if posted scripts are just up for grabs. Simply Scripts states right next to a posted script: "Available for Production."

Anthony Cawood

Thanks for the comments all Danny - think your question and my answer crossed. Bill - agree, and that hasn't happened yet... I've had the other 3 removed, and will get this one removed too. Mikhail/Dalton/Beth - this is what it says on every page where scripts are listed on Simplyscripts - "All screenplays on the simplyscripts.com and simplyscripts.net domain are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. This screenplaymay not be used or reproduced for any purpose including educational purposes without the expressed written permission of the author." Beth - they are available for production, with the above caveat. Dalton - even if they don't understand copyright you'd think they'd have the good manners to ask. Mikhail - my scripts (well the shorts) are regularly sold/optioned legitimately, but seeing them filmed and finished is another matter, so part of the frustration is that these are getting made (usually poor quality) when authorised ones are slow (but usually better quality). Sure it will be fine when Youtube review my evidence, but to all other short script writers... keep an eye on YT and see if anyone is ripping of your material ;-(

Anthony Cawood

And should add that I don't know where they found them, could have been my own site, or here as most of my shorts are on my profile... but they all have copyright on the cover pages and my site is caveated like SimplyScripts too (and SimplyScripts is responsible for 18 legitimate sales/options).

Tamara LeClair

Caveat... don't post your scripts, make the pitch tight enough so you can track requests?

Beth Fox Heisinger

Anthony, still, that statement could be better handled—just saying. I just looked at the site to freshen my memory. It's a bit too subtle... Sorry, but the not-so-bright and/or irresponsible can easily overlook that and ignore. "Available for Production" can be misconstrued—again, just saying. You've had so many short scripts used without your permission! And my understanding is that those who have done so are mostly students, right? If a large portion of Simply Scripts users/viewers are students or first-time filmmakers, screenwriters, etc, then shouldn't an extra step be warranted? Is there some weird misconception regarding shorts? That they aren't as "serious," nor "protected" as a feature, and thus they are up for grabs?—just pondering? This seems to be happening with more regularity. ...You know, one small step Simply Scripts could do is put that phrase in red; make it stand out. 'Cause if this is happening to you—a prominent member—then it's happening to others. Perhaps it's worth a conversation with Simply Scripts management. ;)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Tamara, I don't think this should merit not posting... I certainly DO NOT wish to support paranoia. No way! Work should be shared. ;) I'm just pondering if something more could be done... because Simply Scripts is a listing site. Another listing site, Script Revolution, makes a similar statement but does so more clearly and boldly on every listed script.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Whoops! ...Man, I really do not like spell check! It's Script Revolution. Sorry, I edited my typo/comment above. ..Anyway, to be fair who knows where the people who produced Anthony's script without permission found access to his material. Hopefully it works out, Anthony. Again, sorry this happened.

Anthony Caputo

I'm assuming that you have the copyright if so you will have to prove accessibility to your material along with substantial similarities and if your work is on a permanent medium such as a written script or recording that would protect you but you must have the copyright pending in order to pursue Leagal action. That's how it was explained in film school

Tamara LeClair

I totally agree work should be shared, I'm just wary about posting it in public places... it's like letting my kids hang out with strangers.

Brian Walsh

This is a terrible thing to read...I really feel for you Anthony. The question of course is, is it worth legal action (given the associated cost). If you can afford it, I would say yes, just because if people take your work and mess it up, it also discourages others from producing it. (They may think that whoever made the film has the rights to it). I can't imagine how it must make you feel.

Anthony Cawood

Thanks all for the additional cooments and thoughts... Beth - sorry wasn;t dismissing your comment, I agree, it could be better in terms of prominence and Don (equivalent of RB on SimplyScripts) actually changed and beefed things up after I found the last 3. He also advises all writers to add the following (as part of the script submission form/process) "It is Strongly Suggested that you put, Copyright (c) 2016 This screenplaymay not be used or reproduced for any purpose including educational purposes without the expressed written permission of the author. on the title page of your script." Up to now I have intentionally not done this as previous councel has suggested that some may find this unproessional and a bit paranoid. I'm now considering adding this to just my shorts. Students and misconceptions... from the interaction I had with one of the culprits previously it seemed clear it wasn't malicious and they thought they were applying 'fair use', which is in itself a vague term from a copyright perspective. But my understanding is that fair use is normally applied to use of a small portion of a work, not all of it, and normally isn't for comercial exploitation. So I don't think this applies in this case, but at least one of the film makers did think this. Seems film school should be better with this, and probably many are. And yes Script Revolution (and CJ) is great, have my scripts up there too ;-) Tamara - I don't post my features online, just shorts, and there's not normally a pitch process for shorts per se, people looking to make short films find them use SimplyScripts, Inktip etc and contact me. And to put it into perspective, i've optioned/sold over 40 shorts, so maybe 4 illegal creations isn't too bad? Anthony - I won't (hopefully) have to do any of that as she openly states on the Youtube page that she's used my script. Not sure what you mean by 'copyright pending'? Copyright is granted to the creator of any artistic work (inc scripts) by the act of creation itself, it's proof that isn't so easy, but again, here I don't (think) need that, she's admitting it's my script. Brian - If i thought I was losing out financially then I might, but I'll be happy getting it removed so that I can still get the script legitimately made. Thanks all, some great points raised.

Erik Grossman

Very strange... if it's on a place like simply scripts - I know they say that it's protected etc. etc., but when I was in school (and even out of it), most young filmmakers would just use it as a place to get a script they could film. Either that or they would plagiarize from CHICKEN SOUP books (scary how many times I saw that happen).

Anthony Cawood

Well nothing is protected if people willfully ignore protecion instructions and copyright notices, the people responsible so far have been US and Australian, so I'm blaming poor education standards in those two countries ;-)

Danny Manus

I work with Simply Scripts and will talk to Don about this to make sure they know this us happening and reword it so this stops happening!

Anthony Cawood

Thanks Danny, but no need, Don fully aware and has been helping with this instance and the other ones... would value your opinion on putthing the following on my script cover sheet... This screenplaymay not be used or reproduced for any purpose including educational purposes without the expressed written permission of the author. on the title page of your script. Does this look amateurish?

Anthony Cawood

Richard, in order to get my shorts out there I post them in a number of places, here, my own site, SimplyScripts etc... I genuinely dont believe the issue is that the scripts are out there, I think it's a lack of/poor understanding of copyright by some young/student film makers.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Hey Anthony, no worries! I certainly did not take it that way. :) I think we're all a bit bothered/upset that this happened. And you're right, this has nothing to do with posting your script, but rather has everything to do with the ignorance of those who used it without permission. And what they did was not within "fair use." It was copyright infringement. Period.

Anthony Cawood

Thanks Beth, and all, your support is really fantastic!

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

No! That's terrible!

Dionne Lister

That's disgusting. How dare they! I hope you can get it taken down.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Anthony: I just went to youtube and see the short you're talking about. WTF? Reminds of a line from the classic film "Zulu" "Rather you ask me next time old boy." You shouldn't be violated just because you have talent. Bastards!

Craig D Griffiths

When you narrow down the site let us know. So we can avoid it. Thanks.

Anthony Cawood

Content now removed by Youtube.

Dionne Lister

That's awesome! Glad justice prevails.

Jane Finch

The same thing happens with books except instead of Youtube they are sold on amazon

Anthony Cawood

Jane - really? damn will need to check my work on there too!

JD Hartman

@Anthony Cawood "Another one of my short scripts has been filmed without my permission and posted to Youtube, that's 4 this year!" Instead of getting your knickers in a twist, maybe you should be flattered that someone thought your script was good enough to make into a short film. What are all your short scripts doing for you otherwise? Taking up space on your computer disc drive and.......?

Anthony Cawood

Well JD that's certainly one perspective, but not one I expected to encounter here, are you seriously suggesting copyright theft is okay? Personally I'd rather they were added to the 40 I've sold/optioned legitimately to film makers with the manners and professionalism to not steal my material. And at a more commercial level, I sell approx 50% of my shorts, so I'd also rather they weren't impacting my ability to monetise the scripts I write. That's what my shorts are doing, as well as taking up all that hard drive space.

Jane Finch

I agree with Anthony. Furious rather than flattered.

Dan Guardino

Anthony I hate to say this but anytime you post your script where anyone can read it you are taking that risk. Like my agent tells me keep track of everyone you send a script to and if you are putting it on the Internet you can't very well do that.

Brian Walsh

That's such a big issue Dan. I have been to writing groups where the paranoia of sharing anything for fear of it being stolen is rampant. It's the people who ignore the rules and laws that make it harder for the rest of us. I think sites where they post scripts for reading need to work to find a way to protect it from theft. I'm wish I had some easy answers, but the whole point of sites like that is to enable writers to get their work out there to be sold or produced or both. We should all be able to do that without fear of theft.

Patrick Krauss

Have your attorney send a cease and desist letter

Anthony Cawood

Dan - yep, I know, but I refuse to be scared into inactivity, getting stuff out there, especially shorts is important. Brian - agree, no easy answers. Patrick - I'm an aspiring screenwriter, the only attorney I have used in the last 10 years sorted out my house purchase ;-)

JD Hartman

@Anthony Cawood While I wasn't condoning theft, it's only a short. Until someone produces your short and others see how your story(s) can be adapted to the screen, it's just ink on paper. If they have proven value, why are you making the entire script available? Seems like just a synopsis should be enough for a filmmaker to decide to option or buy....

Anthony Cawood

I don't really see it as 'just a short', I'm quite proud of them.and in my opinion 1 page short or 120 page feature - principles are the same. And I put them out there in the way I do because it's proven to be very sucrssful in getting sales/options, I don't think I should change my methods to accommodate them!

Dionne Lister

Breaking the law is breaking the law. Whether someone steals a small car or a large car, it's still stealing. Why do people always undervalue a creative person's work? That filmmaker is using their film to draw attention to themselves and hopefully make money in the future, so why does the scriptwriter have to do it for nothing? If we stand by and let one person get away with it, more people will decide it's okay. Where does it end? And 'just a short' doesn't take into account the scriptwriter's experience, imagination, skill, and hard work to get to a point of being good at what he/she does. If Anthony was famous, I guarantee we wouldn't be having this discussion. Why is it that if you're relatively unknown, you should be thankful when someone screws you over because it might get you some attention?

Philip B. Grindle III

Hey Anthony sucks to hear that that happened to you and your right Dionne it doesn't matter if it was a 1 page script or a 120 page script its still illegal. All that being said if your going to put your work on a public website such as SimplyScripts then your taking a huge risk. It would be nice if everyone played "fair" and "by the rules" however not everyone does and most people are simply out for themselves.

Anthony Cawood

@ Philip - most people aren't out for themselves, 4 examples of it happening to me vs 40 legitimate examples, 10% minority. And if this was a crime, then some of these comments would smack of victim blaming, ;-(

Desiree Argentina

WOW! I am so sorry this happened to you! Completely wrong and unacceptable!

Dan Guardino

I am sorry that happened as well. Ten percent of the time is a lot so it sounds like that kind of thing must happen to people when they write shorts.

Anthony Cawood

@O Shea -it was and is.

Bob Eckhard

How did she get hold of your script Anthony?

Anthony Cawood

@Bob - they are posted online in various place, inc here, film maker then ignored copyright as she was told by her teacher it didn't matter!

Andrew Martin Smith

I presume that this is student/college short. Did she credit you as the writer on the film?

Beth Fox Heisinger

Good grief... "It's just ink on paper..." "It's only a short..." What??! That's rather belittling writers and what they do, is it not? There's a lot of work, time, mental and emotionally energy that goes into creating what's on the page. Plus it all starts on the page, yes? A script is a script no matter the length. And it does not matter if a script is borrowed for "educational purposes." It still is copyright infringement. Period. Again, the fault here is with those who used a writer's material without getting consent—it's their ignorance, their lack of courtesy. To have someone produce your work, put it out into the world, put your name on it without consent or permission is how people get sued. Perhaps these students should get an educational slap of reality. Lol! Learn that what they are doing is not "okay." Their teachers should know better!

Beth Fox Heisinger

The other aspect about this situation that I find baffling is the missed teaching opportunity to teach new filmmakers how to go about contacting a writer; how to speak professionally to them about their material; how to acquire either an option or get consent/permission; how to handle the business side of production, the paperwork, to learn about copyright and know what is right and what is wrong. The irony here is that upon being contacted most writers (depending on the material, of course) would probably give permission or option a script for a very very small fee. I also ponder... Why wouldn't these student filmmakers work with a fellow student screenwriter? Or produce their own work?

Anthony Cawood

@Andrew - yep a student film, and no the actual credits of the film made no mention of the writer, but she did credit me on the Youtube page itself. @Beth - thanks! And I agree re the missed teaching opportunity. I've given students permission on my short before, but usually stipulate that they don't upload it anywhere and just use for class - of course, you need to be asked first.

Tony Cella

@Beth: I'm tired of the "only a short" excuse for non-payment and non-credit. I've been paid more for short films than features. Many great works of art started as something small. The Daria television series began when the character made a small appearance on Beavis and Butthead. Short stories, which are often bought by the few fiction magazines scraping by in the digital age, turn into novels. Even if the students gave credit, it wasn't their work to use.They didn't create the script, the characters or the setting. Writers are a key and undervalued component of the film-making process. As for it being a teaching moment, American students are lectured on plagiarism in almost each and every class starting in grade school. They knew better and stole a script anyway. Ownership is a concept that permeates global cultures. It's hard to imagine an ethnic group that's connected to the internet not understanding why stealing someone's work is wrong.

Dan Guardino

I agree Beth and you's think people were taught in grammar school that coping someone else's work is cheating and in this case it is a violation of copyright laws. Anthony I would tell that person to stop showing it and destroy the film because she is in violation of federal copyright law.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Anthony: Any instructor saying a copyright doesn't matter is probably teaching at clown college or Immoral University. You always have to get permission to use copyrighted material. Here's an interesting link about some American screenwriters and their lawsuits for copyright infringement. http://www.law360.com/articles/591491/plot-thickens-for-screenplay-infri... http://www.copylaw.com/new_articles/movie_infring.html

Anthony Cawood

Thanks Tony, I'm the same, made much more from shorts, know I'll never make a living from them or anything but I like them. Dan, she is, she's apologised and seems sincere and the movie has been taken down from Youtube. Phillip - thanks mate, interesting reading! And agree, permission should always be sought but I genuinely think there's some confused educators out there who think they are applying 'fair use' principles and advising students accordingly ;-(

Elvira Drake

Sorry that happened, Anthony. I haven't made use of SimplyScripts in many months. It's good she got back to you. This is why I'm iffy about posting a full script online for public access. I'm okay with putting up a sample, but I've taken down all my shorts from various sites. If people want to read, they need to contact me directly and that way I can keep tabs!

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In