Q. A screenwriter whose blog I read is apparently writing a screenplay about a guy and his couch that sounds a lot like a public radio story I heard. Should I warn the screenwriter? How do you think he will take it? Is there any advice I can give him about making his story different?
Another boy meets couch, boy loses couch, boy gets couch story? I love it.
You can certainly let him know what the story on PRI was about. He might be amused and/or intrigued. It's probably not necessarily to warn the screenwriter, as such, since ideas are not copyrightable, and the details are almost certainly different.
More broadly, whatever story you're telling, there is almost certainly another movie/tv episode/novel plot/play/poem/news item out there with the same basic story. So long as you are not, in fact, stealing the details (sequence of events, characters, dialogue), you're safe legally. And so long as you are writing the characters with a great sense of reality to them -- whether from your heart, or personal observation, or rich imagination -- you're safe creatively.
Thanks for the quick reply. The story was on This American Life, which you can buy on Audible. I don't remember the episode, but it was about a guy who searches for the perfect couch and how annoying it was to family, friends and lovers. I really asked because I was working on a script for a low budget horror movie but stopped when a thematically similar big budget movie came out. My story was very, very different in tone and execution, but there when I went to see this movie, there were even some similar scenes. I knew I'd have a legal leg to stand on and a different take on the story but it did take the steam out the project. I hope that doesn't happen to this anonymous screenwriting blogger that I know.
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