Screenwriting : How Can I Protect (copyright) a Concept Before Handing it Over to Screenwriter by Noura Sasoun

Noura Sasoun

How Can I Protect (copyright) a Concept Before Handing it Over to Screenwriter

Hi everyone, I have a question I'm hoping some of you can help me with. I recently completed a short film I wrote and directed. I am looking to turn it into a feature but looking for someone to write the feature. How do i protect my idea before I hand it over to another writer? I don't have a treatment for the feature, all I have is my short. Any advice would be appreciated

Donovan Fulkerson

With my projects I always have anyone involved at any level sign a non-disclosure agreement as well as a project agreement. Also, send your idea/conecept/etc to yourself via email and/or a sealed postmarked document (never open the mailed sealed document) so you have a time/date stamp on your project. It would be wise to have a lawyer review any forms you are using to ensure they are phrased properly. Then everyone involved can relax and enjoy the process without fear. Even when I am one of the writers, I still have my bases covered so to speak with signed agreements.

Marvin Willson

Noura. Unfortunately, you cannot protect an idea or concept, only your interpretation of it. An NDA is hard to enforce, unless they steal the entire idea, as they could argue that they already had a similar idea, before they signed the NDA. If you have a script and a short film, the best way to protect it is to register it with the library of Congress (LOC). Mailing it you yourself or "poor mans copyright" is limited in its protection and clams. Get an agreement in place outlining the credits and responsibilities of both parties, before you start writing. As a rule of thumb the writer of the feature should get credit for the screenplay and you should get either sole, or shared "story by" credit (dependent on how much of the original story is used and how much the new writer contributes to the new script), and you should also get "based on a short story by" credit. Good luck.

Tiffy Diamond

I would HIGHLY recommend you attempt to write the feature on your own. No one is going to get your vision better than you. Even if you do a few crappy drafts you can have people correct it after. If you do hire a writer than do what Donovan says but be aware that Marvin is right all of this is really hard to hold up in court. Marvin and Donovan both gave you the best advice.

Tressa Sanders

Marvin is oh so right. I'm also a book publisher and cringe every time an author sends me their entire manuscript. Similar situation; your idea can be easily stolen and there isn't much you can do about it. And if you'd like to go a step further, consider this... it's even easier and often more profitable to steal an idea from someone and sell it overseas and/or make the film or show overseas so the threat of a concept being stolen is very real and easily concealed. Do your best to write the script yourself and protect that instead or scope out writers to script ideas you aren't attached to and learn script writing that way and then you can write the one you care about yourself if you are looking for a writer because you don't know how to write a script. Or you could scope out writers with ideas you aren't attached to until you find one you can trust with an idea you do care about but ... the family of a serial killer is always shocked so.... you think you know someone .... :)

Janet Scott

Handy advice T Sanders.... I appreciate your thoughts on sending out full manuscripts....

Justin Kapr

You can't copyright an idea, but you can copyright a treatment. Remember to always track who you give what, so that in the event you feel someone stole your idea you can justify why. You do this by numbering every copy you distribute. Treatment's 1-3 sent to Company ABC. Treatment's 4-6 sent to Company XYZ and so on. If you need a crash course on the basics of film, go here. Dov is the best! More importantly... he's fun!

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