INSIDE THE ART, CRAFT AND BUSINESS OF WRITING for Film, TV, Books, Stage, Print or Digital Media (with Particular Attention to Comedy)
How can you stop people from stealing your writing? You don’t have to.
Your prose is inherently copyrighted as soon as it is embodied in any fixed medium – including a digital computer document. People can “steal” your ideas because you cannot legally copyright an idea, only the specific creative expression of that idea (specific character details, narrative sequences, prose, dialog, etc.). People can steal your writing, but you can sue them. How strong your case will be depends on a number of factors.
The first step is to establish your “intellectual property” by the material manifestation of your project (like a draft of a book or script). That’s why you have to hurry up and write your project before someone else grabs the idea and writes a lesser version of it. Meanwhile…
1. Keep it close to the vest
2. Don’t leave your notebook in public
3. Document your ideas – If you’re meeting with someone professionally, write up a description of the project before the meeting and e-mail it to yourself or someone you trust to establish a date of ownership.
a. WritersGuildofAmerica(WGA) https://www.wgawregistry.org/
b. US Copyright Office (hard copy) http://www.copyright.gov/
4. Keep your people posted – If you have an agent, manager or lawyer, make sure your rep knows what you’re pitching before you pitch it.
5. Leave a paper trail – Send a follow-up e-mail that includes a brief description of the project you discussed after any meeting.
6. Back up your work – Make sure your work is safe by creating copies – true backup is considered to be in at least two mediums in at least two locations.
Nothing can stop someone from stealing your work, but if you want to go after
them legally you’ll need documentation.
– Adapted from “How To Be A Writer Who Writes” by Greg Miller