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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Q. I am filing a lawsuit against a movie studio who I believe stole my pilot for their movie [...].  I have a copyright from 2010, and the movie was released in 2012.

Would you know of any good entertainment lawyers...?



A couple of things to consider: If their movie was released in 2012, it was presumably shot in 2011, which means there would have likely been a script in 2009-2010. Most projects go through several rounds of rewrites; development typically goes on for years.

There are many many scripts with similar elements. Many writers have similar ideas. Some ideas are just in the air. Some follow from the subject material. Can you prove that any specific person at the studio read your script? For example, Art Buchwald was able to sue Paramount over Coming to America because they’d signed a contract with him to work on the project.

If you did submit a script to a studio, they almost certain had you sign a release form. Release forms are not 100% effective (they are arguably unconscionable), but they are written specifically to insulate companies from "you stole my idea" suits.

Actually, you can legally steal any idea. Ideas are not copyrightable. You can only copyright the expression of an idea:  plot, characterization, dialog, unique action sequences. You would have to prove that their movie has so many specific similarities to your script that they surely must have used your script. 

Bear in mind: movie studios have lots of very fancy lawyers on retainer, who do nothing all day but fend off lawsuits. Unless you can invest $100,000 in your lawsuit, you’ll probably get swamped by their legal team no matter what the merits of the case are.


(I am not a lawyer; this is not legal advice.)

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