Protecting the premise of your script...


I have a very unique and interesting idea for an animation. How do I go about pitching it to animation companies without having the idea stolen?


You cant protect an idea–only a work of art that is in a fixed form, like a script.

If you really do have a unique idea and its bankable, you can register the script with the WGA
or do poorman’s copyright-mail a registered letter to yourself, or have a lawyer or notary witness the document-or stick it in a bank vault.

Some companies will require you sign an agreement before they review your work saying that you wont sue them if they come up with a similar idea. Dark Horse Comics does that. Not sure how that works.

Others wont even deal with people unless its done through an agent, to avoid being sued by anyone off the street claiming they had an idea stolen.

However, you cannot guarantee someone wouldnt steal your idea no matter what you do.
Comes down to who has the deeper pockets and how ruthless they are sometimes.


If you think that your idea is really “so new and original” that anyone you might pitch it to would “steal” it, you are unfortunately branding yourself as a N00B1E … and one that would be nothing-but-trouble for the company (because you’d accuse them of “stealing your idea” the moment you discovered that it wasn’t really new).

There are no “new and original” ideas left in this world. The only thing that’s engaging (and worth buying) is a truly excellent treatment of an idea … and, one that can actually be filmed, produced, and profitably sold to the public.

Even if your idea is the most fantastic idea in the world … it’s not new, and even if it was, “an idea” is only the first, feeble step in an actual production made from that idea. If you can’t demonstrate, in everything that you say and do, that you clearly understand this, the doors will remain shut. They’re looking-out for N00B1Es… ahem… “just like you.” :rolleyes:




I think this is a bit harsh, and I wouldn’t necessarily call him a noobie because of it. I am not really saying you are wrong, but you’d be surprised the people who think their ideas are original and might get stolen. This past year I dealt with so many people who think their ideas are going to get stolen (without any scripts finished mind you), they wanted NDA’s right away, really scared for the idea to be stolen. These are other professionals in the film industry I’m talking about as well.

Sinistar, if you want to really go for it, you’ll have some work to do. There are different ways to go about it depending on your background, but you’ll probably want to start writing. Some concept art could go a long way as well. If not yourself, hire someone. But you could submit a treatment and/or concept art to the WGA to protect your idea if you’re that worried about it. Generally though it’d be more of a pain for a company to try and steal your idea. And as Kelgy says you would usually have to go through either an agent or an entertainment lawyer to pitch to a company as an outsider.

It can be a fun process, so if you really want to go for it, you have some work to do.

good luck


Thanks guys, I am a newbie! I’ve never written a script. Let’s say I was speaking theoretically calling my story original and interesting :wink:

You’ve all given me something to think about. Namely…

-I can’t guarantee someone won’t steal my idea / premise.

-being overly protective of an idea (don’t worry, I understand that ideas are cheap) could scare a potential investor away.

-Submitting a treatment with concept art… could help protect it.

Dax… is this common practice for writers to submit to WGA? Is this the actual purpose or is it for the script to possibly be picked up?


Hey I’ll try and find a thread that discussed copyright, you can do a search I think in general discussion (wouldn’t hurt) for more info. Lots of resources about this subject. But if you submit your script/screenplay/concept art to the WGA I believe you are protected for 5 years. I believe you’re pretty well protected once you register it there. It’s not worth anyone’s time to try and “steal” at that point really.

It is definitely common practice for writers or creators to register their work with the WGA for protection. I have writers I’ve worked with submit their work at the treatment stage once we’ve reached it.

Don’t feel bad about ideas not being original or whatnot. Most stories are variations of stories that have been told before. Right now I’m in the middle of a pitch with a network. They have a series that has been on so long they’ve thrown in every concept including the kitchen sink, so it has been interesting to try and distinguish my project from that.

There are books and lots of websites with info on this type of thing. I can say it’s definitely a fun process!


Hi guys - new on this forum but not to screenwriting. Been working professional for the last 15 years. My 2c as follows. You can’t copyright an idea. Ideas without execution are relatively cheap. But there are ideas that do have real value and ideas absolutely do get stolen. Sometimes this happens without people really ‘knowing it.’ Executives hear so many ideas it is very easy for them to use material they have heard in one context in another setting. Agents can be completely unscrupulous. As for producers… But despite this, it is relatively unusual, there is some kind of honor amongst thieves, or perhaps people are just to lazy to steal stuff because the hard part is getting it executed. Having said all that, it is actually very unusual for professionals to send stuff to the WGA. Maybe more should. Or perhaps old lags like myself just know there is little point. They would have to rip it off so directly for you to have a case that the chances of you winning are negligible.


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