Monday, June 5, 2023

The Dangers of Pitching Film or Television Ideas

I get this question quite a bit, mostly from filmmakers but also the occasional artist with a good film or television idea. Ray Dowd, the copyright litigator blogger, takes a strong jab at the 9th Circuit for a recent misapplication of copyright and contract law. If only we lived in a world of comedy and buffoonery, the 9th Circuit would be more than welcome and, dare we say, common-place in today’s spectacle-ridden world. However, since I like to think that we still hold law and judges to a degree of reason and logic, it is a bit depressing, if not disenchanting, to see the 9th Circuit rightly become the punching bag of circus acts.

Here’s Ray’s intro:

If you “pitch” a “concept” for a film or television show to a Hollywood producer, can you protect yourself? The general question of whether you can get paid for pitching an idea is impossible to answer in the abstract, some of the factors are: who are you, what is the industry, how concrete is the “concept”, is the recipient of the pitch already secretly working on the same thing. A general answer is that if you can get the recipient of the pitch to sign a non-disclosure/non-compete OR if you can create a pre- and post-meeting paper trail, then MAYBE, depending on a wide range of factors, such as who you are, is the idea or an aspect of it original, and the circumstances/industry in which the pitch occurred. Litigation over these matters is notoriously tricky and if you wait too long, your leverage and chances of success drop dramatically.

Did the 9th Circuit incorrectly read and apply copyright law, granting concepts protection? Read the rest of Ray’s analysis here.


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