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vindraven
03-28-2005, 08:40 PM
How can one go about protecting a story idea, concepts, characters, and such?

NDA's? Copyright? There's tons to know. Can someone make a sticky?

Someone out there knows and any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

d

Raji
03-28-2005, 09:35 PM
i'm no pro, but this is the info i've gathered so far. The real pros can correct me if i'm wrong.
How can one go about protecting a story idea, concepts, characters, and such?
register your idea for $20 with the writer's guild at http://www.wga.org/ . You could even copyright the script. Go to http://www.copyright.gov/ for more info on how to do that.
NDA's?
An NDA is just a non-disclosure agreement. If you're the only one that knows of the project you're working on, just don't tell anyone. :) If you have employees, either find a lawyer that will write one up for you, or find some samples of NDAs online or something.

fwtep
03-28-2005, 10:25 PM
How can one go about protecting a story idea, concepts, characters, and such?You can't protect an idea, only specifics. For example, anyone can make a movie about the Titanic, but if it starts in the present day with a dive down to the wreck, then goes back in time to tell about a love story with characters named Jack and Rose there will be trouble.

Likewise, you're more than welcome to do your own version of Snow White, but if there's a character named Dopey you'll run into copyright trouble. (In fact, there are many other versions of many Disney films, such as Snow White, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, Alice In Wonderland, etc. but they're not infringements because they take the source material and treat it differently than the Disney versions.)

As I said, it's the specifics, or as they say (if I recall) at the Copyright Office, "an idea isn't copyrightable, only the expression of that idea is." Look at "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" both are the same very basic premise-- an ant ventures out to save the colony-- but they're very different films as far as the story, characters and settings. That premise isn't copyrightable, but the final screenplays and movies are.

You can protect ideas by copyrighting them and registering them with the Writers Guild, but if someone steals your idea you may as well forget about it, because even when it's a clear cut case of theft it's still very expensive to pursue legal action.

Fred

vindraven
03-28-2005, 10:41 PM
What about character concepts?? Drawings and so forth. How can those be protected?

d



You can't protect an idea, only specifics. For example, anyone can make a movie about the Titanic, but if it starts in the present day with a dive down to the wreck, then goes back in time to tell about a love story with characters named Jack and Rose there will be trouble.

Likewise, you're more than welcome to do your own version of Snow White, but if there's a character named Dopey you'll run into copyright trouble. (In fact, there are many other versions of many Disney films, such as Snow White, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, Alice In Wonderland, etc. but they're not infringements because they take the source material and treat it differently than the Disney versions.)

As I said, it's the specifics, or as they say (if I recall) at the Copyright Office, "an idea isn't copyrightable, only the expression of that idea is." Look at "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" both are the same very basic premise-- an ant ventures out to save the colony-- but they're very different films as far as the story, characters and settings. That premise isn't copyrightable, but the final screenplays and movies are.

You can protect ideas by copyrighting them and registering them with the Writers Guild, but if someone steals your idea you may as well forget about it, because even when it's a clear cut case of theft it's still very expensive to pursue legal action.

Fred

jeremybirn
03-29-2005, 12:08 AM
What about character concepts?? Drawings and so forth. How can those be protected?

Those are copyrighted as well - again, see www.copyright.gov - there's no better alternative than filing with the library of congress to protect your copyright (don't believe the rumours you hear about mailing it to yourself and using the postmark as proof, etc.) You can even rubber-band the drawings together with the script and they'll all be filed together for the same $20 fee.

Movie studios planning to market toys and action figures based on a character often trademark the character name and likeness as well, but that's more complicated. Trademark law isn't like copyright law. It isn't designed to protect creative artists, it's designed to protect the public from confusion about the source of a product or service, so it doesn't care so much about who made something first, but about which is most famous or established in a particular area.

-jeremy

Xorlium
03-29-2005, 02:39 AM
I've got a few questions of my own...
So say I don't care if people read it and say "cool idea" and use some idea I had, and I don't want to waste any money.

Is it safe putting a script I wrote on the internet?? What scares me is what, for example, microsoft is doing. Someone could come and steal my script, or some part of it, and then SUE me for using 'his' alleged idea. Is there some place I could post it so that I could then prove I wrote it first, etc.?

Edit: I don't live in the U.S.

jeremybirn
03-29-2005, 04:00 AM
Someone could come and steal my script, or some part of it, and then SUE me for using 'his' alleged idea. Is there some place I could post it so that I could then prove I wrote it first, etc.?

Don't worry about that. People file lawsuits like that in 3 cases: 1. They genuinely were wronged by your stealing their work. 2. You have made a lot of money, and they want some of it. 3. Your work is really famous, and they want the publicity.

Almost every film or novel that is a big hit has people filing lawsuits claiming that the book or movie was really their idea.

Sometimes they have something similar they wrote in the past, and their lawyers try to play-up all the similarities in order to further the idea that the makers of the hit stole the idea. Other times they have something they wrote later on, just for the sake of capitalizing on your ideas. Sometimes they hope to collect an out-of-court settlement that could be cheaper for big studios than defending themselves against a lawsuit in the country or locality where the lawsuit has been filed. This is all based on you making millions of dollars from your idea - if you have just written a story you want to publish on the internet: go ahead. If you're worried, file it with the library of congress, or optionally another body if you are in another country and don't want to use the library that the US offers you.

-jeremy

floatingrunner
03-29-2005, 08:07 AM
...humm... i have a question about originality... since everything (almost) has essentially been done.

if i create a 'dream-machine' type story.... would i be in trouble from creaters of matrix and/or 13th floor people?

given the plot will be different from them. ie. rather than machine control human, its probly something else XD

Manuel Ponce
03-29-2005, 02:45 PM
I agree that everything has been done already. But you can probably create a story of good Vs evil about 5 million different ways. Just like a cook cooking ham and eggs, he can probably cook it 50 different ways and it'll have basically the same flavor, but in a different kind of way.

The Matrix people will only start getting upset when you start using charcters like "Neo", "Trinity", "Morpheus", etc.

chinch
04-02-2005, 06:19 PM
Great info everyone! I have a question of my own.

If I were interested in copywriting a script, what draft should it be in. For example, can I copywirte a treatment/outline for a script I'm GOING to develop or does it need to be a final draft of a screenplay?
Thanks in advance to any info

akaiwa
04-03-2005, 04:48 AM
if i create a 'dream-machine' type story.... would i be in trouble from creaters of matrix and/or 13th floor people?

Heh... I find that comment funney, because the Matrix is a ripoff of the film the Third Eye. The lawsuit's been going on for quite some while now, and the woman has proof the story is hers.

Anyway, I'd like to second the request that this be a sticky. I would have asked the exact same question later on, that's been brewing in my mind for a while. I'm grateful so far for the information.

(Side note: the most extreme plagarism I've EVER seen is Disney's The Lion King (http://www.kimbawlion.com/rant2.htm). Jesus... they're lucky the Japanese creators didn't want to sue...)

nildoe
04-03-2005, 12:23 PM
Hey...interesting thread...
i have a quesion about the incredibles...its a very nice movie dont get me wrong...i love it, but i couldnt help but wondering about the heros...they almost exact as the fantastic four with Flash Added and the iceman from marvel...

so they same powers but different names...

so did they have to ask permission to marvel to do the incredibles? if not why not?

Nil

Shoeless
04-04-2005, 07:20 AM
Hey...interesting thread...
i have a quesion about the incredibles...its a very nice movie dont get me wrong...i love it, but i couldnt help but wondering about the heros...they almost exact as the fantastic four with Flash Added and the iceman from marvel...

so they same powers but different names...

so did they have to ask permission to marvel to do the incredibles? if not why not?

Nil

I don't believe they had to ask for permission or obtain any kind of licensing because, as I believe other people have said, you're only treading in dangerous waters when you directly use NAMES and LIKENESSES. The courts recognize that ideas can be had anywhere at anytime and bear remarkable resemblence to each other. Otherwise there would be legal battles in the comic world over Marvel's Angel vs DC's Hawkman, or Marvel's Mr. Fantastic versus DC's Elongated Man and Plastic Man.

Artists in all mediums use each other's ideas all the time. What is illegal is to use the idea EXACTLY without bothering to change any characteristics at all.

So for example:

LEGAL: Akira Kurosawa makes a movie called "The Seven Samurai" about seven warriors hired to protect a beleagured village from the bandits that attack it constantly. Years later a Western is released called "The Magnificent Seven" about seven cowboys that are hired by a beleagured town to protect them from vicious rogues that attack them. Years later still, "Battle Beyond The Stars" is released about seven pilots that are hired to protect a beleagured planet from assault from vicious aliens...

ILLEGAL: (And hypothetical) Peter Jackson suddenly decides to make a movie about Middle Earth titled "Lord of the Rings" and goes ahead and does it without consulting the Tolkien estate.

Where the shakey middle ground for just cause for suing comes in when the resemblance is a little too close to call. As in JK Rowling's case where someone sued her because another author previously claimed that the use of the word "Muggles" appeared in a previous book with Rowling ripped off.

Hope this helps...

blackwulf360
04-05-2005, 09:44 PM
Thanks everyone for all the info. It has been really helpful. My question is: Has anyone used online services to register your ideas? For example, Godaddy has a regitration service that suppose to make it easier to register your work.

nildoe
04-07-2005, 06:35 AM
Thx alot for clearing that up....

shoeless

so happy I could die
04-07-2005, 03:45 PM
I agree that everything has been done already.

And that's why we have to do and create it from a surprisingly different perspective, more mesmerizing and more shocking
I'll consider this as my new mission in life

jeremybirn
04-15-2005, 11:37 PM
Heh... I find that comment funney, because the Matrix is a ripoff of the film the Third Eye. The lawsuit's been going on for quite some while now, and the woman has proof the story is hers.

I find it funny that anyone would jump to a conclusion like that - I mean, imagine if someone jumped to a conclusion like that about your work! Especially in a thread talking about defending an author's rights, you should at least wait until there is some legally established proof before you accuse someone of plaguarism.

As shoeless was explaining above, if her story treads on the common theme that in the near future machines will rule the earth, which other sci-fi has before and afterwards, then that kind of similarity alone won't win her any cases. I've seen the links on cgtalk to a student's article in a community college newspaper, and to the rap site that picked it up, but there have been no findings of fact saying that the woman who claims rights to Matrix I, II, and III and Terminator I, II, and III is anything more than a Dale Williams. The only thing she "won" was a ruling that didn't judge the merits of her claim, it only that said that the RICO claims in her case (which would tie together different movie studios as parties to the case) couldn't be dismissed on purely legal grounds:

http://moviecitynews.com/notepad/2004/041207_wach.html

You might also be interested in this link (http://davidpoland.typepad.com/thehotblog/2004/12/more_on_termina.html) for more discussion.

-jeremy

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