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Stop theft - Please Read!

Written works, such as movie scripts, novels, and treatments are subject to copyright law. Copying portions of others' work is plagiarism, and is illegal. But ideas and titles are not subject to copyright law. In other words, if you write a story it is subject to copyright law, but if you tell someone the outline of your story (which is basically ideas) it probably would not be subject to copyright law. 

Writers Workshop, myself, and most of the film industry has high respect for other's creative properties - indeed, live in fear of law suits and normally won't even hear an idea or see a script except through an agent and with a release form. The Writers Workshop program provides a unique opportunity for a large number of scripts to be read, evaluated, and recognized. With the safeguards provided by the Writer's Guild, copyright law, and the legal climate, the risk of plagiarism is extremely limited. However, the film industry is an idea industry. Once an idea is made public, it is public property. (But even ideas are respected in the business and are purchased when offered through legitimate channels.)

There are literally many thousands of people writing scripts and submitting them each year, but less than 400 films are made each year, plus TV episodes. There are only so many basic plots possible (around 36). The variations are in the full story line: subplots, characters and situations. A writer's skill is not so much in forming the basic plot, but in creating characters, a story line, and fleshing it out. It is very likely that writers will see something similar to their basic plot on TV within the next one to three years, or even a similar story line, especially if the topic is hot, or very universal. This doesn't mean their script has been plagiarized, or indicate a lack of creative talent in Hollywood, or even that someone stole their basic idea. It simply indicates the reality of the creative world. Great minds think alike.

If you believe actual plagiarism has occurred within the film industry, you can contact a lawyer or the Writer's Guild for sound advice on how to proceed to rectify the situation. East of the Mississippi River, contact Writer's Guild of America, East, Inc. 555 West 57th. Street, New York, NY 10019-2967. West of the Mississippi, contact Writer's Guild of America, West, Inc. 8955 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048. The Writer's Guild is a bargaining agency for members with produced screenplays, but can provide limited information to non-members.



You are free to give this article in its entirety to others (small groups, under 100) as long as the copyright with my name (Dorian Scott Cole) is included. This material is not public domain and may not be sold, mass distributed, published, or made electronically available in any form, without permission from Dorian Scott Cole. Complementary distribution (unpaid - no charge) will not be charged for. Visit the Visual Writer Web site for e-mail address information.

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