1. AHewlett
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    AHewlett Member

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    Story idea stolen

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AHewlett, Oct 7, 2011.

    Hey everyone,

    I've been trying to find a co-author for a story of mine and I thought I found one about a month or more ago. However, he turned out to be a right 'person' and told me he wasn't going to do the story any more because he wanted to find someone with experience. I didn't hear anything more until early last month and I found out he was writing my story idea with someone else. Now I normally would be flattered and not worried but this story idea I had been working on since I was fifteen, I had grown with the characters, worked on the idea since that age, etc.

    He has taken the idea, the female character, the business which was part of the story and everything else. I've been fighting with him to either get some kind of credit off him or gain the story back or even write with him but he's just not having it no matter how many times I ask him.

    I don't know if there's anything I can do legally and I'm posting this on this site to get some ideas off everyone. I understand it wasn't the best idea to give him all my ideas but then I didn't think he would do it this and I know there isn't a legal law against story ideas, but I have quite a bit of paperwork on the main character (the female character) which I did before I met him.

    I don't know what to do which is why I need advice.

    I apologise if this is was in the wrong place but I couldn't search to see where to put it.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Just to reiterate something that has been said on these forums before, even though it is too late in this case: Never, ever work with a co-author on a project without a written contract. I don't care if the co-author is your best friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, or mother.

    I don't know to what extent you can do much at this stage. Someone with a better knowledge of UK law will have to answer that. One issue here is going to be the cost of taking whatever legal action is available to you. Can you afford to do so? If it came down to a court action, can you afford that? If the guy becomes rich and famous off of the work it may make a lot more sense to pursue it. Maybe you could at least hire a lawyer to send him a letter?
     
  3. Gottagocit
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    Gottagocit Member

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    I would definitely send a registered letter to him with reciept back to you stating he must cease all work on the story which you created and demand be return to you all rated materials. I would also send he same letter to his new 'partner'. Tell them they have ten days to comply or your attorney will be filing charges to recover damages.

    Wait the ten days from his receiving the letter and contact your local court. They can assist you in filing the appropriate civil complaint for a small fee I suspect. Once they are both served notice by the court you should get a response if not before I should think. You will need to have your ducks in order to ensure it is clear to anyone that it is your idea and no one elses. If you have that he/they will not want to be drug into court to fight to keep the idea for themselves.
     
  4. Gottagocit
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    Gottagocit Member

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    I would definitely send a registered letter to him with reciept back to you stating he must cease all work on the story which you created and demand be return to you all rated materials. I would also send he same letter to his new 'partner'. Tell them they have ten days to comply or your attorney will be filing charges to recover damages.

    Wait the ten days from his receiving the letter and contact your local court. They can assist you in filing the appropriate civil complaint for a small fee I suspect. Once they are both served notice by the court you should get a response if not before I should think. You will need to have your ducks in order to ensure it is clear to anyone that it is your idea and no one elses. If you have that he/they will not want to be drug into court to fight to keep the idea for themselves.
     
  5. AHewlett
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    AHewlett Member

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    I don't have enough money for a lawyer though a friend has put me in touch with someone who knows the in's and out's of the how legal system so I'm waiting to see what he says. I've also email the UK copyright office to see what they say.

    ---------- Post added at 07:24 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:20 PM ----------

    I don't have his house address or his email (more fool me) mostly because the forum I registered with at the time doesn't allow members to give that info out even across a messenger or email, quite annoying really. Like I said to the person above, I've contacted the copyright office in the UK, I'm waiting for this legal help guy to email me back and see what they say. I will keep trying to talk to this guy, just to see if there's any way of getting him to crack and give it back to me (yeah right) but there's not much I can do without giving him a whole load of money which I don't have and there would still be the chance that he wouldn't give me it all back.

    Never again will I get a co-author
     
  6. Allan Paas
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    Allan Paas Contributing Member

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    If you have notes from years back about this particular story, they might prove useful. Those would show definitely who the owner of this story is. Having all the information and proof about what the "co-author" said when this mess started could also be good.

    After reading this thread I will keep all my notes, scribblings, just in case.
     
  7. AHewlett
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    AHewlett Member

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    I have a first person description of my idea that I've had since I was fifteen, the problem is, with it being on Word and all; any time I've looked at it or had to change something, the date on the document has changed. The documents I have now are dated last year, this year and I think there's one from the year before that. Also, any conversation between me and this idiot have been on AIM because that's the only way we could talk and not all conversations have been saved, though I have the one where he won't give the story back though only half of it, not all of it was saved.
     
  8. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I'm not sure what the UK Copyright is like, but most likely, you can file a suit even though your work is not registered, and since you cannot hire an attorney due to restricted finance, your best bet is to do a one-man lawsuit. Or, if you have a relative, and the relative can witness your claim, odds are that you may win the case. Unfortunately, you can't collect the damages in America (not sure how the law works in UK) if the book is not registered.
     
  9. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    No, Word will retain the file's original date unless you rename it. Go to the file's properties in word and it will tell you when it was created, as well as when it was edited and accessed.

    The question is what back ups do you have? Hard copies, notes etc would be excellent, but how do you back up your computer? I write everything to a CD once a month, so have physical records of my works in various states of completion (not to mention a towering pile of burnt CD's taking up space on my bookshelves). If you've got none then at least back up NOW! Keep this copy and you can register it even in its incomplete state, as your work. I can't remember who the organization is that you send the stuff to, but others on this forum keep mentioning it.

    Also what e-mail records do you have? See if you can get copies of them, even the ones you've deleted, through your ISP.

    I'm sorry that this happened to you, but it needn't be a total disaster if you act quickly. Just remember, if your former cowriter actually gets the work finished and published, provided you can show evidence of theft, you have a claim against him. If you do decide to threaten him with lawyers and court, carefully mention that as well. Taking him to court with a lawyer at this stage, I think would be counter productive, but I'm not a lawyer so can't really be certain. But if you want compensation there won't be any. The value of a half completed book by an unknown author is pretty tiny. Small claims on the other hand, at least here in New Zealand, is only a few bucks and you don't need a lawyer to lay a claim. If you want your work back and can dig up some evidence, that would be the way to go I think.

    Best of luck.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  10. AHewlett
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    AHewlett Member

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    I knew the law would be different in America though I was wondering if he could still write it even if I can claim copyright over here? I might be able to get it copyrighted over here but will it apply to America? I read that it would but I don't know exactly.

    By the way, may seem like a silly question, but what's a one-man lawsuit? You can tell I know my law *sarcasm*

    ---------- Post added at 08:51 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:47 PM ----------

    Thanks Greg. Everything that I've done is either printed or I've handwritten it myself. Back up copies will be made tomorrow so thank you for reminding me. If I do have to make a new file with the info from way back when, would that cause a problem with my case?

    There is no email records which is a problem, only conversation histories on AIM which some have disappeared though I have one file which has recorded today and the other time we talked so I can copy that onto the file as well.

    I don't want money, I just want my story idea back so it's mine and mine alone. I would only want money if he agreed to give me credit even if he got a tv or movie deal.
     
  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    The thing I noticed was your statement "he was writing my story idea with someone else". (My italics) Ideas can't be copyrighted (in the US or, according to the UK Copyright Service Fact sheet P-01: UK Copyright Law, in the UK). Now, my understanding is that if, once the book comes out, the things you wrote (or wrote together with him) are included and in a manner that makes them unmistakably yours, you can pursue it. But if it's just the idea he's using, well, lesson learned.
     
  12. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    If you printed it, you have to have printed it from something, i.e. a word or similar file. If you have a word file of your work, then go to file, properties and it will tell you the creation date. That date is permanent until you do something drastic like rename it. So no, absolutely do not make up a new file. Keep the old one as is. Then go to file, properties and do a 'print screen' or 'screen dump' command, of the file properties and make a new file with that info on it. This is a record that shows the creation, modification and access details of the original file.

    If you need other file copies, use the save as command, and keep the original file intact.

    I don't know who AIM is. But if its anything like Gmail or hot mail, then you'll have an account with them. If you have an account you can usually access through the provider, your e-mail history and some older e-mails. If its an ISP then you can do the same. If its a forum, talk to the moderators. If its a social networking conversation thing like twitter, you may have some joy with the supervisors. It can't hurt to ask if they have a conversation history.

    Hope that helps.
     
  13. AHewlett
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    AHewlett Member

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    Which is why I wanted to know if something could be done since he's my ideas and I didn't know if I had a claim. Now I understand that if he's publishing it with my ideas then I do have a claim but I just wanted to know about the idea.

    ---------- Post added at 09:38 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:36 PM ----------

    AIM is a messenger like MSN which is kinda of a problem, since all files will be on my computer (so my problem, haha) but I've got one conversation history so I'm not too worried over that.

    So everything applies even if I have to edit the document? The original date will still be saved even though I might have to edit and save it? If that's the case, then great!
     
  14. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    I'm sorry you're going through this, and that it's causing you so much upset.

    I really think you should carry on with your story as if this whole mess hadn't happened- even if it means re-writing a load of it (did you not have your own copy? I'm not sure I've followed that part fully). This person who stole your idea sounds immature and unprofessional to start with, and combined with the usual difficulties of co-authorship I would be very surprised if their project came to anything. Im not a lawyer, but I don't think legal action is the right move at this point- it's potentially costly and as someone has pointed out, at this early stage you aren't likely to achieve much. The trouble with sending a threatening letter is that unless it is completely professionally written and absolutely correct you run the risk of looking a bit silly, so I wouldn't put too much trouble into tracking him down.

    So, I'd say make sure you save any correspondence you still have with this person, just in case, but try not to worry about it and don't let it worry you or put you off writing the story you love. And never, never give this person a penny of your money in the hope of resolving this, under any circumstances!
     
  15. AHewlett
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    AHewlett Member

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    I will be writing the story either way, the only thing is that I hadn't even started writing it when I started talking to him and I haven't yet because I was planning it more then I got the message from him which started all this mess off. Like you said, it's not the best idea to any lawyers involved or writing a nasty letter but talking to this guy gets me nowhere apart from him saying no, no, no then changing his mind, etc.

    But this story will be written either in the next month or in the next few years, he won't stop me but I don't want him to write it either, haha.
     
  16. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Meh, if talking to him is getting you nowhere then ignore him, he's probably getting a kick out of the power he thinks he has and I'd be willing to bet that if he no longer gets a rise out of you he'll get bored pretty quickly :) I hate to sound trite but truly, you can't change people's actions, only how you react to them. Best of luck with your story!
     
  17. AHewlett
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    AHewlett Member

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    It's actually me trying to talk to him to get some kind of answer and most of the time he has been online, he wouldn't reply or he wasn't online. He could be doing it to get a rise out of me and I haven't flown off the handle yet with him, I've been rather polite while he's been rather up front.

    Either way, I hope to get this all sorted soon, whether I have a claim or not :)
     
  18. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    As prettyprettyprettygood said, just write it. Regardless of what this idiot says, write it. I know it's a little alarming that someone has your idea, like a wormy thought niggling in the back of your mind, but let's be realistic. If he's a first-time author, coauthoring is more problematic than helpful. And his chances of publishing this thing are stacked against him even under the best of circumstances. Unless he's going to ruin your fun by posting it online, pfff, let him have his dementia. He's probably not going to get far, especially from coauthoring. Maybe you can contact this other other person and tell him/her the details. He/she might think, "I don't want to work with this fool if he's that petty." And he'll be back to square one and you'll have your own story to write.

    And, as shadowwalker said, you can't own an idea. If you could, we'd have only one horror movie ever.

    Computer timestamps aren't proof. I could change the time settings on my computer to some date in the 1800s, disconnect from the Internet so Windows can't reset itself, and create a Word document just like anyone can back-date their files to 2006. Timestamps are easy to fudge and no one buys into them.
     
  19. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    First, semi-snarky observation: I don't understand the idea of co-authoring a book.

    That said, you don't have many legal options as you can't own ideas. A (probably foolish) proposition for you: write faster than him. Then if you ever become a famous, generation-defining author, they can make a movie about it. Yeah.
     
  20. Lightman
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    Lightman Active Member

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    First, semi-snarky observation: I don't understand the idea of co-authoring a book.

    That said, you don't have many legal options as you can't own ideas. A (probably foolish) proposition for you: write faster than him. Then if you ever become a famous, generation-defining author, they can make a movie about it. Yeah.
     
  21. Croga
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    Croga Member

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    The law in Ireland, which is normally the law in England is once you write it you own the intellectual properties.
    Premise and story line and plot are commonly stolen things, but piece by piece. Lifting the entire outline and character bios from lets say the shining would be copyright infringement even if it was not registered.
    you just need proof it was your Idea first.
    Dates are important, but what also matters is the progression of the idea.
    I have 4 outlines to one story I'm writing with a host a characters and places that have been turned around and worked and changed giving me a much more writing than anyone would have on my characters.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the thing is, you can't claim copyright protection for the idea, but neither can he!

    so, just consider this a lesson learned the hard way and write your book... if you're good enough and lucky enough to get it published, then let him be the one to learn the hard way that he can't claim ownership of an idea, either...

    and for heaven's sake, from now on NEVER work with a partner without having a collaboration contract in place first!

    go here for the best one you'll find: http://www.wga.org/content/default.aspx?id=1027

    it's for screenplays, but with just a few minor word changes, will work just as well for any kind of writing project...
     
  23. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    If you have exchanged emails with this person then they could theoretically be proof that you wrote it first since several email services like Gmail store the messages in conversation format.
     
  24. AHewlett
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    AHewlett Member

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    He's published a few novels, whether that be online or not I don't honestly know. I'm currently writing it at the moment though my concern is that he's on chapter six (as far as I know) with this person and I'm just starting to write it. I'll take your advice about the timestamps since I thought it might be an issue though I saw the date was last year and I know I have one earlier than that.

    I'll try and see if I can get the details of this other person but chances of that a nil.

    ---------- Post added at 07:23 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:21 PM ----------

    He's published a few novels, whether that be online or not I don't honestly know. I'm currently writing it at the moment though my concern is that he's on chapter six (as far as I know) with this person and I'm just starting to write it. I'll take your advice about the timestamps since I thought it might be an issue though I saw the date was last year and I know I have one earlier than that.

    I'll try and see if I can get the details of this other person but chances of that a nil.
     
  25. AHewlett
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    AHewlett Member

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    He's published a few novels, whether that be online or not I don't honestly know. I'm currently writing it at the moment though my concern is that he's on chapter six (as far as I know) with this person and I'm just starting to write it. I'll take your advice about the timestamps since I thought it might be an issue though I saw the date was last year and I know I have one earlier than that.

    I'll try and see if I can get the details of this other person but chances of that a nil.
     

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