1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is it worth registering a treatment for copyright?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Ryan Elder, May 22, 2015.

    I would like to show just the treatment of my screenplay story before writing it all out. That way I can get feedback to see if the story even holds together or works well, before writing it all out. However, I do have that fear that a lot of new writers have of someone stealing my idea. Is it worth it registering just a treatment though, without the full story written out in screenplay form?
     
  2. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    As I understand it, copyright is automatic. You don't have to register anything at all.

    Besides, why would they bother stealing your idea? That's not to say it's not good, just that studios have hundreds of writers pitching fully developed, written up scripts at them constantly - why would they go to the effort of stealing your idea and paying someone else to write it up for them?
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Not the studios. But when I post my work to be critiqued by any average joe struggling writer, they might steal it, if they cannot afford to hire a writer, and want to write something themselves I sometimes fear. I know an idea in itself is not copyright, but if they see the whole treatment you could steal the whole execution of the idea too.
     
  4. terobi
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    terobi Contributing Member

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    Well true, it's entirely possible someone might steal and write up your idea - but then even if they do that and write it up, presumably the main strength of the script lies in the execution, the characterisation, the dialogue. Even given the same idea and characters, different writers will end up taking entirely different approaches and come out with two completely different products as a result.

    Can you honestly say you've never borrowed an idea for your own purposes? Do you think that, having looked over a synopsis of the plot of Star Wars, your finished "copied" script would be anything even remotely like the original (hell, even Star Wars looks absolutely nothing like its own earlier drafts)? You drop in your own preferences, your own style, your own flavour of characterisation and wit, and suddenly it all looks completely different.

    I don't think you need to worry - most writing types are much more interested in writing their own stories than trying to copy someone else's.
     
  5. swhibs123
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    swhibs123 Active Member

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    copyrighting your treatment will not stop someone from stealing your idea. Ideas are not copyrightable. If they took your words, that's something else. i.e. if they cut and pasted. But if you had this awesome idea about a vampire warewolf human love triangle, that idea could be knocked off with slightly different twists a million times (as we all know has happened, and with great success). I'd worry less about being stolen from and more about getting the critiques you need. Good luck!
     
  6. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. But what if they looked at it and stole the exact same twists and plot turns, and ending, rather than just the idea itself? We have all borrowed ideas, but have any of us, stolen the same endings and twists to those ideas?
     
  7. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Depends on the country, sadly. America is a little more in bed with the idea of registration, while in Australia and I think the UK it is automatic upon creation.
     
  8. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    If they can't come up with their own idea, how likely will it be they can make it work as a script, and make it good enough to sell, even if you give them a blow by blow? Dialogue, scene description, pacing; even writing style. They're all part of making a film work. If they can't make the idea work, how likely is it they can write good dialogue, for example? I'll tell you: not very.

    And I'm confused. Why would an 'average joe' aspiring writer hire a writer, and why would they steal an idea if they couldn't afford to hire one? That makes zero sense.

    The first thing a new scriptwriter needs to do is get over their fear of theft. So many writers that I've offered to read their script or hear their pitch have refused because they fear me stealing their precious idea. I've been writing scripts for decades, and had moderate success, one feature production, grants and lots of near misses. I'm more than happy to give you my best ideas, in treatment form. Because I know that I'll be able to write them better than you or anyone else. And if I can't, you deserve it. Here's a starter, just the pitch:

    Elemental - A van full of backpackers struggle for survival against the elements and each other in the Australian outback when their vehicle breaks down.

    Anyway, writers want to write their own scripts. They want to tell their own stories. Not those by somebody else. Directors however...
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2015
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    In the U.S., copyright is also automatic upon creation of the work (upon fixing it in a tangible medium, at least; you can't just have created it in your mind). There are benefits to timely registration, however.
     
  10. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Thanks, good to know. I've registered some of my scripts there with the East Coast WG when shopping them around, based on advice from Producers, but never really delved too deeply into U.S. copyright law.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's cool. There are good reasons to register. I've worked with some screenwriters out here on registrations, and also working with entities to become signatories of the Writers Guild, West, or enter into production contracts etc. It's an interesting area to work in.
     
  12. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    West! I registered with west, not east. See how much attention I pay. :)
     
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  13. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay an average joe may or may not hire a writer, but they could still take the idea, and it's full execution themselves. I guess they may not be a good writer, I am just worried about plagarism. Heck, they could just take the whole script and use that. I don't have enough money to take it court, so I feel scared of posting a full script or a treatment for that matter.
     
  14. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Never ever ever post the full script openly on the net. But treatments for reviews should be safe. Also, always keep a record of changes, notes and proof you worked on it, showing the evolution of the story. You may not be able to afford to take them to court, but if a lawyer sees a slam dunk lawsuit, they'll take it because the loser pays.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2015
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  15. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks but saying that does not boost my confidence lol. What's the difference though, since a treatment is still all the scenes in order and you know what happens.
     
  16. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Because it's simply not the whole thing. It's not complete. It's a detailed summary, sure, but there is still a lot missing. There is still lots of hard work involved in making it into a script. Posting a script means there is no effort required. All the hard work is done.

    Besides, what idiot steals a script treatment up for review? You're basically admitting it needs lots of work and that the story needs to change. So even if they steal it, I doubt they have the writing chops to make anything of it. It'll just rot in a drawer. And if they do try to sell it, they know there could be a potential lawsuit which will KILL DEAD any fledgling career.... while you just move on to your next idea.
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think the risk is low. But if you're that worried about it and would feel better registering it, then do it. It's not that expensive.
     
  18. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks, I registered it today.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ideas--plots characters, etc.--aren't copyrightable. Copyrighting your treatment won't give you the protection that you want. It's harmless, but it's also useless. If you wouldn't have trusted someone with it before you got the copyright, you still shouldn't trust them with it.
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Not true. Characters can be subject to copyright protection and so can plot lines.
     
  21. Stacy C
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    Stacy C Banned

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    Really? Copyright or trademark? In the insanity that is our current (US) IP system, it would surprise me if one could patent a character.
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Trademarks can apply to character's name or likeness. Copyright wouldn't apply to the name, but could also apply to likenesses. But copyright can also cover the character or plotline itself - in other words the features or characteristics, events and their order, etc., so long as they are sufficiently well-developed.

    No patents :)
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I should add that these protections for well-developed/detailed plot lines and characters aren't exactly new. Case law goes back to at least the 1920s/30s in the U.S. I'm not sure how much further back the cases they were building on go.
     
  24. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Instead of registering for copyright, should I instead, register it for trademark then?
     
  25. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    For...? You shouldn't file for a trademark unless you are using the mark commercially or intend to in the near future.
     

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