Screenwriting : Has someone stolen your screenplay or script concept? by Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Has someone stolen your screenplay or script concept?

Years ago, I wrote a historical fiction novel that wasn't very good. However, it sold pretty well and I made a fair amount of money from Amazon. A few years later, there was a mini-series about the same subject and they introduced one of the characters in a way that was nearly identical to the way I wrote it in my novel. Though the character was a real person, the event depicted in my novel and the mini-series never happened. Therefore, I thought it was highly probable that whoever wrote the script read my novel, which was the only historical fiction book on the market about the subject. So, the screenwriter either purloined my idea or it was a huge coincidence.

Has anyone ever stolen your screenplay or script concept? Give the forum dwellers your horror stories.

Owen Mowatt

Hmmm....being as there is nothing original under the sun, You'd probably need to define what you mean by stolen.

Can a person not be inspired by your work, for example? I think if someone used one of my characters/scenes, to tell a different story (even admitting that they did), I don't see an issue with that personally. Or even take my concept and execute it in a different way.

Dan MaxXx

Nope. Never had a concept worth stealing.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Dan MaxXx:

LOL I tend to agree with that philosophy. I spend little time worry about theft.

Dan MaxXx

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy Making movies take too long to steal. However you can pay "homage" and take a known concept (Die Hard in a building, Die Hard on a bus, Die Hard on a Train...) and add a new twist.

Doug Nelson

Sure, I've had concepts 'stolen'. Who hasn't? Watching a film/reading a novel often triggers some notion/idea that I think may be worth following - does that mean I'm 'stealing'? I don't think so.

Craig D Griffiths

When does “inspired by” cross over into “stolen”.

Plus there is coincidences.

I have spent time writing a script. Told someone and they said “that’s just like”. I didn’t steal anything. If I thought of it, someone else may have the same thoughts.

Brian Shell

I feel my first script's concept was "borrowed"... enough to speak with entertainment attorneys... to realize I didn't have a paper trail to prove it. Imitation is flattery I told myself. At least my idea was good enough... and still is... to be in the ballpark.

Pamela Bolinder

A paper trail includes all written communication. When I co-write, I make a copy of everything/save screenshots. I'm curious, what did the entertainment attorneys advise?

Eric Christopherson

I'm still bitter about having my spec script Die Not So Easy stolen and turned into a rather successful Bruce Willis film. All they changed was an Easter story to a Christmas story, but I know, I know. (Why won't my right eyelid stop twitching?)

Brian Shell

Pamela Bolinder The entertainment attorneys told me a concept can be "borrowed" and that it's the execution of the concept which copyright law protects.

Brian Shell

Funny, Rena Norrod just posted a logline which is similar to "Mirrors" from 2008... which is similar to my script "Distortions" - in mine, it's any mirror as God's portal... not just a magic mirror. I am not implying that Rena stole my idea... just different spins of the same concept. Magic mirrors have been around for a LONG time. I just find it funny that this post's stream was illustrated on the same day as Phil's initial post. My script that I published on Amazon for Kindle is

Doug Nelson

Aw common now - There are north of 100K scripts floating around out there in hopes of being anointed by a magic wand. Do you think that it's possible that some may incorporate some similar concepts and notions? How many Cinderella, Hamlet, Oedipus or Romeo & Juliet stories are out there? I'm aware of at least half a dozen scripts about cloning Jesus from the DNA on the shroud of Turin. You really think your concept is unique? I'd say ole' Bill Shakespeare got a lot of 'em. Show me the same old story but make it different, make it fit today's world, deal with contemporary issues. Almost all successful movies are 'relationship' stories,you know; boy meets girl, boy meets boy, girl meets girl, on & on.

Brian Shell

Narcissus has been around since the physics of optimal reflection. I just know how hard I shopped my supernatural mirror script in LA around Hollywood from 1996-2002 for Mirrors to be made in 2008. Just funny a random coincidence illustrates the point tonight. Peace out.

Debbie Croysdale

A few years back I attended a filmmakers meetup, cos it was in a bar and informal, I did not take my laptop. However in case I met anyone important, I had printed notes on a couple of projects. I chatted for a while to someone who seemed ok, (well he wasn’t with the usual thread of seeds regularly frequenting this particular hub) and enjoyed a pretty deep conversation. While looking at some of my pages, he suddenly downed his drink, said “Thanks” and hurriedly walked out still holding them.

Owen Mowatt

Did your mother not tell you NOT to talk to strangers, Debbie??? Tut, tut, tut.

Derek Reid

Harriet - I suppose that beats finding similarities right after finishing scripts. =D

Dan MaxXx

Here is how professionals "steal" from other professionals.

Tristan Strecker

I recently found out my horror concept is similar to an indy video game. My copyright predates the game’s release and it really is (I believe) just a case of two people coming up with the same idea. I mean, I feel it’s pretty unlikely four guys from Belgium somehow got to my short script and went, “Jackpot!” I also know I didn’t have any way to steal the core concept from them, nor would I. I also believe there’s room for all of us and from what I’ve seen of their game, I know execution is going to be very different on my script. Everything has been done before and we all just need to put our own spin on it. Unless someone is taking work word for word, it’s all just great minds think alike.

Bill Costantini

Tristan: true dat. If we all (for the most part) experience the same things in life, and have the same thinking mechanisms, shouldn't, at times, some of us maybe write about those same things as well? Or at least....kinda similarly?

Case in point: White House Down, and Olympus Has Fallen. Both were spec scripts, and both sold around the same time. (Sold for millions in fact, aspiring script sellers.) Both had similar premises, story lines, and conclusions. Nobody was sued.

Best fortunes in your creative endeavors, Tristan!

Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

No, but I often feel like I'm racing against people sharing the same ideas. For example in college I wrote a short about a man protecting the last bible on Earth, a couple years later Book of Eli came out. Then I started writing a slapstick comedy/western called The Good Don't Die (They Just Get Horribly Wounded), and A Million Ways to Die in the West was announced. Most recently I wrote a story about best friends trapped in a romantic comedy, and last month Isn't it Romantic? came out.

Robert Rosenbaum

I wrote (and am currently in development) a screenplay titled The Manny. It was copywritten in 2015. In 2016 This Is Us premiered. I am guessing they "adapted" the imaginary TV show The Manny from the eighties TV show The Nanny. And even thought the premise of my film is not the same as the "fake" premise of the non-existent TV show in This Is Us, they have still somehow stolen my thunder! In 2017 I showcase a play of mine in NYC titled Basement. Believe it or not a play entitled Basement premiered in NYC several weeks before mine! Again, different premise but DAMN! I know how you feel Nick.

Tony S.

^^ JJ Abrams.

Debbie Croysdale

@Owen LOL Yeah should never talk to strangers, but they did wear a nerdy badge they were part of group, but when the wine is in the wits are out! I no longer drink at film meets in bars, there is always more in the tank at another bar later.

Vic Burns

I wrote a play 25 years ago that was VERY similar to Amazon Prime's 'Lucifer'. No foul play, but it happens...

Zorrawa Emily Ann Jefferson

Never happened to me, but it is one of my worst fears.

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