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UK Screenwriters: How Best To Protect Your Work

From ideas, to IP, to copyright.

If you're a new writer, you're probably worrying a bit about people stealing from you. Whilst we have some good default protection laws in the UK, the natural fear of having your script ideas stolen isn't completely unfounded.


If you're interested in learning more about UK Copyright Laws, here's the article but if you're in need of simple tips to help protect your script then here are some ways Script Stable suggest:



KEEP PROOF:

Email your drafts to yourself. Start by documenting any evidence related to your original idea or script. This could include drafts, treatments, emails, notes. This is a standard practise that you should get in the habit of doing but of course if you have an individual or entity you suspect of stealing your idea, collect and save any correspondence with them.


PRINT AND POST:

This is an old school method for the true paranoids out there. Simply post a printed copy of your work to yourself. Date it and keep unopened. This will act as evidence in court if you should ever need it (you won't need to but IF you ever did).


INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY:

Work on Original IP. While not a failsafe, this helps lessen the risk of someone stealing your idea. As true crime and real stories are open to all, it's tricky to properly copyright them. Whilst you can copyright your script; you can't copyright the content of the original story if the story is legally open info to the masses. This tip goes against the grain at the moment as 'Based on True Events' is the industry trend. HOWEVER, trends change and come back around, so write what calls to you instead of second guessing the industry.


FOLLOW UP:

Always follow up a meeting with a 'casual' record of what you sent that person or what you discussed. Send an email to thank them for their time and note what you covered in the meeting. This is a good way to keep a paper trail of otherwise unrecorded discussions.


KEEP A LIST:

Keep a spreadsheet of everyone you've sent your work out to. Include their contact details and what project you sent. You think you'll remember but honestly, you won't. Keep a list. Even if you never need it for proof of work, this is a great habit to adopt as a writer. Staying organised can be tricky when you start to juggle multiple projects.


SEND VIA YOUR AGENT:

If you don't have an agent yet, this is obviously an extra hurdle but one of the perks of having an agent is that your work will be more protected. Most production companies don't accept unsolicited material (writers sending scripts without an agent). If you're currently an unrepresented screenwriter, we strongly suggest starting out with competitions first rather than going straight to Production Companies. Competitions are a great way to build your CV and indirectly prove your authorship before then going out to production companies.


If you're on the hunt for an agent though, then go here.


WEATHER THE STORM:

The truth is, there's no real way to 100% guarantee protection against stolen ideas. To a certain extent, you have to weather the storm as best you can. But whilst it's rare; ideas do get stolen from time to time and without resources in your corner, there's little way to get justice. A lot of arguments boil down to 'there's no such thing as an original idea'. Don't keep all your eggs in one basket. Make sure you're developing and writing a handful of projects to help you move on should it get stormy.


However, if you are a UK screenwriter who believes that someone has stolen your concept or script, there are several steps you can take to address the situation and protect your rights. As a disclaimer Script Stable has to remind you that this article is not legal advice. If you are in this situation then it's your responsibility to do your due diligence.


It's advisable to seek legal counsel from an attorney with expertise in intellectual property and copyright law. They can provide guidance on the best course of action based on the specific circumstances of your case. Remember that each case is unique, and the best course of action may vary based on the specific circumstances.


Here at Script Stable, we hope you'll never have to contend with any of this issues but you'll stand a better chance by practising our advised tips in this article. If nothing else, make sure you always keep proof.



 

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