Q. I've read that the show SCRUBS relies heavily on stories that real doctors provide to the show. If I were to solicit stories from workers in the field relevant to my aspiring series, how should I approach them from a legal standpoint? Is a promise of "consultant" credit enough to protect me? "Story by" credit? I'm assuming I should create a form of some sort, that protects me and perhaps offers a token fee if the idea submitted is used in an episode.
First of all, so long as it remains an aspiring series, you don't have to do anything. Rights of copyright and privacy don't really apply to a spec episode -- obviously a spec episode is by definition a copyright violation, but it doesn't matter because it's not published or broadcast. It's only once you option the series that you have to promise that your work is original and doesn't step on anyone's rights.
In general I don't believe you need rights if you're using your medical interviews and research as a jumping off for your stories. Obviously you're going to filter the stories through your characters and your episodes. No one owns the copyright on a medical condition. If your doctor friend had a patient with a problem, you can have House have a patient with similar symptoms and a similar ultimate condition. So long as your interviewee's patients can no longer be identified from your episode, you're probably clear.
If you want to offer something, offer a "Medical Consultant" credit (in the end credits, not the front credits) for the relevant episode. You shouldn't need to offer money because most people are only too happy to tell you about their work; but if you want to, make sure it's payable on the "first day of principal photography," not any earlier. That's when all the funding is in.
Labels: rights, spec pilots