Are Movie Ideas Ever Stolen?
The idea for Jingle All The Way with Arnold Schwarzenegger was stolen. 20th Century Fox lost a $19 million dollar lawsuit in 2001 to a high school teacher named Brian Webster. He wrote and copyrighted the script and sent it in to Fox. The spokesperson for the company claimed that the movie was original and that they were not guilty of copyright infringement, but the court saw otherwise. $19 million is a flash in the pan, considering the movie grossed $183 million.
Broken Flowers starring Bill Murray was evidently not original. Reed Martin who claims to have written the screenplay said that Jim Jarmusch stole his ideas for the plot and characters in this movie. It was so much like his own screenplay that he presented to the studio, it was uncanny. Martin was given a proposition from the studio to make the movie. He was asked who heíd like to star in the movie and he said, "Bill Murray". He didnít hear from the company after that. Martin filed a lawsuit when he saw his movie come out in theaters.
Hollywood has seen many lawsuits due to copyright infringement. There are incidences when aspiring writers offer their material and find that their ideas were stolen and slightly twisted to appear original. There are writers who receive no recognition for their own work nor are they paid a dime for their ideas because of this. The Egyptian Cinema has been criticized for stealing most of their movies. Some examples of Egyptian adaptations of American movies are Meet the Parents, Shall We Dance and Rain Man.
It is difficult to prove that your work is original in the court of law should you find yourself in this situation. So, what is a writer to do? Suggestions are to bring a sample of your work to the studio when youíre presenting your script and keep your treasures locked away for safe keeping until the time is right. You should also register your script every 5 years with the Writers Guild. Be sure to have your script copyrighted along with the WorldWide OCR SEAL.