copyright So a major studio admitted to stealing my script...

So it’s 2021 and this goes back to 2015, so apologies for the saga—unless you like drama, in which case, settle in.

About me: I’m a 31 y/o writer. I have a small copywriting business, write and sell novels mostly for fun, and dabbled in various media i.e. screenwriting.

Beginning: I was in a debilitating motorcycle accident in 2015 that left me unable to walk for nine months. Ironically, I was hit by a major feature film director. I’ll skip the medical details but was staring down a long recovery period in physical stasis, was living in Los Angeles, and got it in my head to mess around with screenplays.

I had gotten pretty used to long-form (100k+ words) so a script was like hey, 20k? Let’s bang one out. Which is exactly what I did for three weeks during this period where I was bed-ridden. It was titled Scum, it was written under a nom de plume. I formatted it, packaged it, saved it, and kind of forgot about it, making the deal to myself once I was emotionally past the accident and physical therapy, I would blast it off and be world-famous. Maybe ten friends and colleagues read it and said it was good and they enjoyed the concept. The concept is unique. This is important later.

Middle: A year later I followed through. I read the pitch emails, crafted an ‘engaging’ query letter, and like the newbie I was who hadn’t yet been scorned and never thought it was going to amount to anything, sent it to every email address I could find. This included, specifically, the major agencies in Los Angeles. I received, well, four rejections from about eighty queries. Whatever, I’m used to that. This is early 2016. The project has lived in my email and Google Docs and that was where I thought it would remain.

End: I was having a viewing party of the fourth season of WestWorld at my place here (not in the USA) as I have a movie theater. Cue collective WTF from me and my friends, who stood up, incredulous, as the EXACT concept of Scum played put in the season premier, with the same dialogue.

The next day I dug in my email and found an opened receipt for a query to Jonathan Nolan’s agent at WME. He wrote this episode. I reached out to HBO (owned by WB) who, of course, never responded. I spent the next week interviewing intellectual copyright lawyers about this and said yeah, it was outright stolen.

BUT

They don’t own me credit, residuals, royalties, payment, or ANYTHING. All because I didn’t in my query stipulate that it was being sent to be considered for purchase. HBO finally reached back out and all but admitted they stole it, and gave me some ‘helpful’ pointers as to how my work would not be stolen in the future. Thanks!

So here I am. My first ever script was stolen and produced into a major, highly-rated television drama with serious talent attached. I’m pissed. I’m more than pissed. All I wanted was a credit and like, some taco money. I never expected anything from this script in the first place.

However, that doesn’t mean I was giving it out for free. Be warned and make sure you take care of yourself, legally.

Anyone know how I can work this into a career? Ha!

TLDR: Warner stole and produced a script, but won’t pay or credit because it was a “gift.” Can’t use it as leverage as it is now useless, since it was already produced and aired. No kudos given.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
It's a newbie lesson learned. If you drop a brand new TV on my doorstep and I use it, and you come back later asking how much I want for it... there's a step missing there.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
What was the tone of your email? accusatory?
Or was it lavish praise about how much you love HBO and how proud you were to see your story concept on their network.

politics always come first in business
 
When the financial crisis hit, I was in fear of losing my job, had lost a considerable amount in retirement savings, and was in fear of losing my condo. I went to lunch with a good friend of mine and was expressing all of these fears. He responded with something I've never forgotten. He pointed out that even if I lost everything, I still had whatever mind, work ethic and skills that had gotten me to this point in the first place. Unless I'd lost my faculties, I should be able to do it again. At first, I didn't like his answer, but I've come to see the wisdom of it.

You had a script that was good enough to be stolen by a hit television series. You have every right to be pissed. Very, very pissed. However, whatever talent you have that made your script worthy of stealing is presumably still with you. That might be where to focus your attention.
 
What was the tone of your email? accusatory?
Or was it lavish praise about how much you love HBO and how proud you were to see your story concept on their network.

politics always come first in business
Not sure I agree. I haven't worked with those studios but in business, at least at this level, it's more about what you have to offer. My email was toneless. I just wanted to discuss the revelation with their legal team.
 
When the financial crisis hit, I was in fear of losing my job, had lost a considerable amount in retirement savings, and was in fear of losing my condo. I went to lunch with a good friend of mine and was expressing all of these fears. He responded with something I've never forgotten. He pointed out that even if I lost everything, I still had whatever mind, work ethic and skills that had gotten me to this point in the first place. Unless I'd lost my faculties, I should be able to do it again. At first, I didn't like his answer, but I've come to see the wisdom of it.

You had a script that was good enough to be stolen by a hit television series. You have every right to be pissed. Very, very pissed. However, whatever talent you have that made your script worthy of stealing is presumably still with you. That might be where to focus your attention.
You nailed where I'm at right now. On one hand I got screwed out of a payday as well as some much-needed recognition. On the other, I cooked up something worth stealing. It's inspiring, aggravating, and motivating all at the same time. It wouldn't be the first time an artist capitalized on anger and spite!
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Not sure I agree. I haven't worked with those studios but in business, at least at this level, it's more about what you have to offer. My email was toneless. I just wanted to discuss the revelation with their legal team.

You "just wanted to discuss" umm okay. It sounds like you got EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANTED from them!!
Why are you bitter?

You crafted an email and your goal was to discuss something, they responded and you had a discussion.
Boom! You got everything you asked for and now youre on here complaining.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
shocked chris tucker GIF
 
You "just wanted to discuss" umm okay. It sounds like you got EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANTED from them!!
Why are you bitter?

You crafted an email and your goal was to discuss something, they responded and you had a discussion.
Boom! You got everything you asked for and now youre on here complaining.
Not sure what your attitude is all about. Lol no shit I'm complaining. Also, no shit I'm bitter! So tell me this, you know EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED from my email? Go ahead- tell me EXACTLY what I wanted.

btw, they never responded to my email. As I wrote
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
Sometimes ranting in the right places makes your voice heard and things happen. Depends on how big of a voice, and if the concern can be legitimized. So do your thing, I say.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Not sure what your attitude is all about. Lol no shit I'm complaining. Also, no shit I'm bitter! So tell me this, you know EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED from my email? Go ahead- tell me EXACTLY what I wanted.

btw, they never responded to my email. As I wrote
Okay i will tell you again exactly what you wanted. You "just wanted a discussion."
These are your own words!!!
 
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