Does anyone know anything about when a production company wants you to fill out a release or screenplay submission form before you send them your screenplay. Is these form legit and protect our screenplay?
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My screenplay is registered with WGA west and www.copyright.gov. I will get a lawyer to go over it with me to be on the safe side.
WGA registration does NOT protect you in court.
Here is the form: SUBMISSION AGREEMENT I, , desire to submit to (“BP”), for its consideration, material written, owned or controlled by me (the “Material”), currently entitled, “ ,“ in the following form (e.g. screenplay, treat ment, etc.): , with the following number of pages: . WGA Registration No. (if registered): . I acknowledge that BP, because of its involvement in the entertainment industry, receives unsolicited submissions of ideas, f ormats, stories, suggestions and the like. I also acknowledge the possibility that the Material may be identical or similar to material that BP has received from other sources or has been independently developed by BP, its employees, agents, clients, licen sees, licensors or assigns. I also acknowledge that in order to protect itself, BP will not consider the Material unless BP receives this Agreement, signed by me, with the Material. As a material inducement to BP to consider the Material, and in consider ation of BP so doing, I agree to the following terms and conditions: 1. I acknowledge that I am voluntarily submitting the Material and that it has not been solicited by BP. I also acknowledge that the Material is not being submitted in confidence, and t hat no confidential or fiduciary relationship is intended or created between BP and me by reason of the submission of the Material. Nothing in this Agreement, nor the submission of the Material, shall be deemed to place BP in any different position than th at of any other member of the public with respect to the Material. As such, any part of the Material that could be used by any member of the public may be used by BP without any liability to me. 2. I request that BP read and evaluate the Material to deci de whether BP will undertake to acquire it for production and/or distribution. BP agrees not to use the Material unless BP first negotiates with me and we reach an agreement regarding the compensation to be paid to me for such use. I acknowledge and agree, however, that BP’s use of material that contains features or elements similar or identical to those contained in the Material shall not obligate BP to negotiate with or compensate me, provided BP determines that it has an independent legal right to use su ch other material, either because such features or elements were not new or novel, or were not originated by me, or were or may hereafter be independently created and/or submitted by other persons. 3. I represent and warrant that: (a) I am the sole autho r of the Material or acquired the Material as the employer - for - hire of all writers thereof; (b) I am the sole owner or exclusive licensee of, or have an exclusive option to purchase all right, title and interest in and to the2 Material, free of all claims, liens or encumbrances; (c) I have the exclusive right to offer all rights in the Material to BP; and (d) no third party is entitled to any payment or other consideration as a condition of the exploitation of the Material. 4. I acknowledge and agree that there are no prior or contemporaneous oral agreements in effect between BP and me pertaining to the Material, or pertaining to any other material, including, but not limited to, agreements pertaining to the submission by me of any ideas, formats, plots, ch aracters, or the like. I also acknowledge and agree that BP shall have no obligation to acquire, develop, or exploit the Material by reason of BP’s consideration of the Material or any discussions between BP and me regarding the Material. BP shall have no obligation with respect to the Material unless such obligation arises pursuant to the terms of an express written agreement between BP and me, which may hereafter be executed. 5. I agree to release, indemnify and hold BP harmless from and against any and all claims, demands and liabilities, whether currently known or unknown, that may arise in connection with the Material, or by reason of my breach of any representation or warranty I have made in this Agreement, or by reason of any claim now or hereafter made by me that BP has used or appropriated the Material, except for fraud or willful injury on BP’s part. 6. I agree to give BP written notice by certified or registered mail or express courier of any claim arising in connection with the Material or ari sing in connection with this Agreement, within sixty (60) calendar days after BP’s breach or failure to perform the provisions of this Agreement, or if sooner, within sixty (60) calendar days after I acquire knowledge of facts sufficient to put me on notic e of any such claim, or breach or failure to perform. I agree that my failure to give BP such notice will be deemed an irrevocable waiver of any rights I might otherwise have with respect to such claim, breach or failure to perform. BP shall have sixty (60 ) calendar days after receipt of such notice to cure any alleged breach or failure to perform, prior to the conclusion of which I may not institute any legal proceeding against BP. All notices shall be sent to the parties’ address set forth in this Agreeme nt. 7. I have retained a copy (or the original) of the Material. BP shall have no responsibility for any loss or destruction of the Material while in transit, in BP’s possession, or otherwise, and BP shall have no obligation to return the Material to me, although it may do so. 8. I acknowledge and agree that I may not assign any rights or duties under this Agreement without BP’s express prior written consent. BP has the right to assign this Agreement or transfer all or any part of its rights and obligat ions hereunder to any person or entity, in BP’s sole discretion. BP agrees to give me notice of any such assignment. This Agreement shall bind and inure to the benefit of the parties, BP’s successors and assigns, and my permitted assigns. 9. I acknowledg e and agree that whenever the word “BP” or “BP’s” is used in this Agreement, it refers to (1) BP; (2) any subsidiary or affiliated company; and (3) any and all of BP’s owners, managers, officers, agents, employees, clients, representatives, successors and assigns. If the Material is submitted by more than one person, the words “I” and “me” shall be deemed changed to “we” and “us,” respectively, and this Agreement will be binding jointly and severally on all persons submitting the Material. 10. Any modific ation or waiver of any provision of this Agreement must be in writing and must be signed by both BP and me. In the event any provision of this Agreement is determined by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, illegal, or otherwise unenforceable, such provision shall be deemed to have been deleted from this Agreement, while the remainder of this Agreement shall remain in full force and effect according to its terms.3 11. If any claims, disputes or other matters in question arise between us with re spect to this Agreement, and we cannot resolve them after good faith discussions, we shall submit them to a mediator mutually selected by us in good faith, within thirty (30) days. If mediation does not mutually resolve the dispute concerning this Agreemen t, we shall submit it to arbitration before either the mediator or a mutually selected sole arbitrator who has entertainment industry experience. If we cannot agree upon a sole arbitrator within thirty (30) days, we shall request an arbitrator appointed by the American Arbitration Association in Los Angeles, California. The arbitration shall be held in Los Angeles, California, and shall be conducted under the rules then prevailing within the American Arbitration Association, unless we otherwise agree. If an y party refuses to be involved in the resolution of the dispute according to the terms of this Agreement, the other party may proceed to arbitration, so long as all parties have written notice and an opportunity to participate in any such proceeding. The d etermination of the arbitrator shall be binding and nonappealable, and may be entered as a judgment in any court of competent jurisdiction. We shall equally share the costs of the mediator, however, the prevailing party in any arbitration or other legal pr oceeding arising out of or related to this Agreement shall be entitled to recover its reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred in such proceeding or action (including arbitrator fees). 12. I acknowledge that BP has not made any oral representations of any kind to me with respect to my submission of the Material. This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between BP and me with respect to the subject matter hereof, and may be executed in multiple counterparts, each of which shall be deemed an origi nal. (The signature or a copy of the signed Agreement transmitted via email or facsimile shall be deemed “original.”) I have read and understand this Agreement, and I agree to the foregoing terms and conditions of my submission of the Material. Date: Signature Print Name Address City State Zip Telephone Number Email Address
Entertainment Lawyer, due that being a contract / agreement.
It's to protect the producer , not you.
Like Royce says, it's for the producer's protection. not yours. I had the same question a few weeks back and here is a concise response from a story editor from WME: "A release form "releases" the producer of any liability should he ever produce a film similar to your screenplay. The release form states that he reads lots of scripts, many of which share similar ideas, and the odds of seeing duplicate stories is always possible. When you sign the form, you are acknowledging your awareness of all this. You should, however, always read release forms, to make sure they are standard and don't include anything wiggy - like giving up your first born. In the event of a writer v. producer lawsuit, release forms are kind of useless anyway. If a release form is not signed in the presence of a notary public, a writer could later claim that his signature was forged. Ultimately, this is why producers prefer material be submitted though agents or managers." My opinion: register your script and share it with anyone who wants to read it. Get it out there!
George, the WGA was not formed for script registration and that is not it's sole purpose. Legally speaking, WGA script registration doesn't have a leg to stand on.
The release forms are legit. The Production companies are really protecting themselves. They want to make sure they have your permission before they read that FADE IN:
Sorry Lendell, I don't mean to highjack your thread. George, it's just another avenue to make money for the WGA. I don't have a problem with the WGA nor do I have a problem with them making money but this particular service gives you nothing for your investment. There are plenty of script registration services available and they all have the same power as the WGA's registration service. Why do they exist? Because the people who started them think, rightly so, that they will make money from them.
Okay, not really sure how this thread veered off the original subject and got on the WGA, but if I remember correctly, this is a site where we as fellow entertainment people are supposed to help one another. So, how about we stick to Lendell's original inquiry about Production companies release forms. Oh, and Lendell, do watch out for those "our property" words. Never a good sign.
I understand they are not trying to be sued, as long as the writer has rights to their works, which is what the www.copyright.gov is for, to protect you. I know productions companies does n't want to get sued.
There are Production companies out there that will accept unsolicited material, but you have to find them and query them first, then they will lye you know if they want to read the script. And most will have you sign a release for them to read it.
I advocate the WGA, I advocate mass media as much as any independant. Through cold calling with no results I was asked several times if my work was WGA registered. I expect it was just a given it was registered with the copyright office. The WGA is about mass media and setting salary standards if you are interested look it up and find out all you can about it instead of listening to opinions. As far as WGA registration being legal binding it just adds to papertrail of your work along with copyright registration from my limited understanding. I heard of many photographing their work periodically during the writing process as well. We can't live in a bomb shelter, walk on eggshells and always be paranoid but it does not hurt being careful any way we can. As far as your paperwork involving a specific company I have no idea what to tell you Lendell and truly wish you luck. I have freely given idea's on collaborations which in hindsight were quite beautiful, it's kind of cool one of the idea's I had (Rough form mind you) was in no way associated with the Hendrix movie as far as I know but may indeed be somewhat like a scene in the Hendrix movie. Things like that just happen sometimes. I also advocate ASCAP and BMI.
Eric, if you have to query them first before they will let you know if you can send them your material, then it isn't unsolicited.
People, stop being so literal. For crying out loud, you're writing in a thread, not writing the great American novel. You never query a company that does not take unsolicited material. They are just going to blow you off anyway. You find the companies that do except queries from unproduced or unrepresented writers. People who say they have sent a query or log line, which you never just send a log line to a producer, to some who does not take unsolicited material is full of it. Never, in a million years would that happen. Those studios are trying to protect themselves and their clients. As for the query, yes, there is a certain format to the letter itself, (if you're log line is any good start with that, better yet, if you met the producer at some point and time, start there. Explain your story in your next paragraph, and make sure you put a tiny bio of yourself and accomplishments in a paragraph after that. Then close by letting the company know if they like your idea, you'd be happy to send them a copy of the script, then thank them for their time.) Your query does not have to look like everyone else's, just stand out, use the #1 rule of writing, catch the readers eye. It's as easy as that. If you receive a rejection, move on to the next till you hear that magic word... Yes.
Lendell, first congrats. It's a good thing that someone wants to read your script. Also, the submission agreement should be more or less generic and simple, and it is very common.
I've come across production companies requiring release forms. To be on the safe side, I wouldn't submit my material until I've had a lawyer look over the release. You want to make sure that you understand the legal terms. It just makes good business sense.
So I need to get an agent?
Hi Danielle don't get discouraged it is a tough old world out there. I am like you just staring out and trying to get a portfolio together.The important thing is to believe in yourself and your work. I always think about J.K.Rowling and how her book was rejected but then someone believed in her and saw the pound signs the rest is history.
@Valerie, yeah 1 billion dollars later she is truly blessed, so don't ever give up, because I am not. Thanks for the encouragement Valerie.
This is standard practise to protect production companies from frivolous lawsuits from writers who believe their ideas have been stolen. However, if a company steals your work verbatim, then you can still sue them. Some lawyers advise never to complete them. However, not completing them will severely hamper getting your material read. Ultimately it depends on which production companies you chose to deal with. Buyer beware.
Based on my discussions with industry folk, pure theft is extremely rare. I know of only 2 cases of studios "substantially" stealing material from writers. But statistically speaking, most claims from writers are unwarranted. Protect your work with the U.S Copyright Office before sending anything out. Also keep a record of all emails and other communications to prove that companies have access to your work.
Going back to Lendell's ORIGINAL question - and parroting a few of the responses already posted - production companies etc. ask for a release form to be signed before reading any unsolicited material that is submitted by a writer WITHOUT an agent or manager. It is to protect THEM from a wave of frivolous lawsuits by writers claiming that their original material was stolen. It never really protects the writer - because it's too easy for the company to then read your work and pass and tell you that they "already have something similar in development". No way around that - no way to prove it is not true. Bottom line: you don't sign the realease - they don't read your material. You do - and it can get stolen anyway. They are far less prone to manhandle you if the work is submitted through "legitimate channels", i.e. an agent, a manager or an entertainment attorney. If your work is good enough - I suggest getting one of those on board your team to start - and then worry less about release forms. The fact is - if they have the intention to steal - they'll steal. You can also get a (free) list from the WGA of SIGNATORY companies - companies who have agreed to abide by WGA rules - whether the writer is a member or not. I'm a WGA member who was hired to write an original screenplay for a major studio - and was paid for my drafts - but when the movie was made - they still gave me no credit and I was forced to sue them. As for Alle's comments - she's right in telling you to expect nothing. As for her animus toward the WGA - and claiming that their script registration service is a scam to pay for parties - she's full of shit. The Guild registers work for a 5 year period for the sole purpose of helping to prove the earliest registered date of completion of a work IF a dispute arises as to who wrote what and when. They've been providing this service to Guild and non-Guild members for some time. They also collect health and pension payments on behalf of their members and provide free legal services to members through Guild contracted lawyers. They arbitrate credits. They have a PAC in Washington to fight for rights. Not sure what her personal problem is with the union - but on that matter - she's way off base. And yes- you can go to the copyright office in DC - or seal a full copy of your script in an envelope, and mail it to yourself with a postmark (and leave it unopened). But nothing is fool proof. Bottom line for Lendell is if this place is the only game in town (it's not) or the only one that has agreed to read it and only if you sign the release - and you're OK w/ that - go ahead and sign. As I said - it's more for their peace of mind than yours - and legally, they can make no claim to ownership of your work without a contract and money changing hands. A release form alone gives them no ownership of your work and also doesn't stop them from usurping your ideas and claiming they already had somthing similar.
I've signed a couple, strikes me that more serious requests would require it.
I've signed several of these - they are bog standard industry practice. Initially, I was worried about theft too, but as several people on here have pointed out, if they want to steal it, they will, but generally speaking, it's not in their interest to do that. These days I am more of the view that the more your project is out there and known about, the harder it is for someone to claim it was theirs all along. Take a deep breath and make that leap of faith, or, chuck it in a drawer because that's where it's going to live if nobody ever gets to read it. Good luck - I really hope things go well for you!
Bridget, they don't plagiarize your project, they strip it of ideas. It's happened to me on several occasions. I don't get the reasoning other they maybe dropping those ideas on a script they already own, saves them money. They may have a substandard result, but I don't think they care.
Can we put this thread to bed? You don't need an agent nor a lawyer nor a contract for a release form. And for those who are overly concerned about getting their script stolen, and not being snarky here, but most likely your script isn't good enough to steal. And before anyone comes back with, "they stole my idea", ideas CANNOT be copyrighted. If you don't share your work, how is anyone going to find your script? Bottom line: Copyright your script. Read the release. If it seems standard with no wonky language, sign it. Be happy someone wants to read it. Send your script. The end.
Monique who the fuck are you? Everyone accepts to get a sale you have to put your work out there. You have to protect it, but all the same the protection is meaningless, as my example shows. If they want it but don't want to pay for it they'll just take it and put in another frame work. The idea being that you can't sue. Which is probably a mistake but money is the bottom line. You can copyright ideas that's what copyright or registration is for, don't you get it. You sound like a fucking producer her once said to me, don't worry about them stealing, come up with something different. Bottom line is they leach of any idea or script or novel or story they want, if they don't want to pay for it they wont. I recommend you read the producer of Helix interview on Wikki. It shows how they do it. But having said that, we want to sell our work, and it's the chance you take. That's the end.
Chill out, Huw. And sorry to burst your bubble, but you cannot copyright an IDEA. You can copyright a detailed outline, but not an IDEA. http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/can-you-copyright-an-idea Sounds like you've been burned, and for that I sympathize, so it's a given, but wasn't stated, that a writer should do their due diligence on whoever is requesting to read your script.
I give one warning about abuse. Consider this one yours, Huw. Debate is fine, derogatory language is not.
An idea as such is an ethereal thing so no, but once on paper it becomes a substantial thing. So in that respect, is registerable and possible to protect. I didn't abuse anyone. Will concede on the f word though,
Huw, ideas are not copyrightable. If I write down the idea, "A two-headed man becomes a bartender in Jamaica and both heads fall for the same woman", that's not copyrightable. If I write an entire outline or treatment describing the entire layout of the story, THAT IS copyrightable because it's a story, not a simple idea. I hammer out treatments all the time and copyright them because it's much faster than developing those ideas as novels or screenplays.
This is the stuff lawyers discuss. Technically, Huw is correct. Once an idea is in a fixed tangible form, copyright is awarded. It is the expression of an "idea" that lawyers argue in court. So the more fleshed out an idea, the greater the chances of proving a copyright infringement. FYI. The two headed man idea would be an interesting rom com.
"Once an idea is in a fixed tangible form, copyright is awarded. " The idea has to be developed into a unique work that extends beyond an 'idea' in the simplest sense of the word. Any story, even one laid out in the most basic, bare-bones structure (beginning, middle, end) is copyrightable. A paragraph about a guy who flies to Alaska to marry a grizzly bear is not. An idea is nothing but a seed; a story outline or treatment is a fully formed creative work that provides specific details. The latter is copyrightable, the former is not. ~ For the record, I'm talking about legal copyrighting in the U.S. (i.e., filing for a copyright), not the "I wrote an idea on a napkin so now it's protected" type of copyrighting. Not sure how it works in other countries.
George, the best way to protect one's work is via loc.gov or copyright.gov. There's an e-copyright option that runs $35 for a single work or $55 for a collection if you're prolific. The registration process is a little odd in places but once you get the hang of it it's fast and affordable. ~ Regarding 'The Core' screenplay, I looked on IMSDB and SimplyScripts and didn't see it. Daily Script and Weekly Script are two more options.
Great detail thanks Derek. I was being to simplistic, but that was my intent. Thanks.
Anytime, Huw. I prefer the e-copyright method over WGA since the protection lasts longer. And for those flooded with ideas (like me) using the collection method to file can save a lot of money.
Would you post a link to that. I'm liking the sound of it over WGA
Seems to be a glitch. I posted it and it vanished. http://copyright.gov/eco/
They have updated their site recently and it is a lot better I think.
It's a little odd the way the site works, not nearly as simple as the WGA site. The eCO site asks for some information you don't need so you can skip those pages. You pay first and then upload your files. I should build an instruction sheet with screen shots to clarify how it works. Stay tuned...
Hi Derek sounds good i am staying tuned to this for more info.........
I'll work on it this week and post a link when it's finished. ;-D
I like your idea about the two-headed bartender in Jamaica, Derek. You should develop that into a script.
Thanks, Stefan. A lot of oddball ideas pop into my head. Sifting through them is often quite challenging. :D