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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.


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's Resident Guru
Hi ,
You remind me about one story I read long long ago, a writer wrote script and send it to agent who sold it to big studio and told the writer you didn’t clarify that your want to sell it!!! That writer made them payed him a lot with simple trick. He went to his friend and told him you own my script copyrights coz you wrote it not me 😹 and my name is your pen name, so go and sue them. The studio told him we got your email. The writer friend told them I don’t send any email and how the fucck trust any email. Finally they payed the writer friend 34 millions.
I, too, thought this was fictitious.

Several years ago I did deep-dive research into the subject of scripts being
stolen by producers. The goal was an investigative documentary. I never heard
about this $34 million pay out.

Who was the writer? What studio paid out $34 million dollars? Did they make
the movie?
You can at least make few millions $
But you have to leave 50% for the lawyer. you can easly make a deal with them, get me more than 10 millions from that studio and you will get 50%, more Settlement more 50% your lawyer will get. But be smart, but bridle in your lawyer mouth, so he can’t go that studio and make settlement behind your back and get some millions to fail the case. Make your agreement with the lawyer simple give me the money and got 50% and no settlement with the studio before you show me the settlement papers.
Both. I made a reddit post but it was removed. They stole the concept and changed the name of the app (bid for crimes) but the concept is directly stolen. Which in itself was bad, but when I hear verbatim dialogue that's when I knew it was mine
Only in the screenwriting world can a writer's script be stolen, and still have it spun as the writer's fault. I, for one, feel your pain and feel you should put up a billboard exposing them. Furthermore, who's the hack writer who claimed your work? This shit pisses me off.
I know I am seriously late to the party here. I feel your pain. My writing partner and I had a series stolen from us. Not the entire series mind you, but the key concepts, characters, and situations. It turns out a production company was already working on a series by the same name (it happens). My partner and I were filling in the outline and beats in a public place (Barnes & Noble). I know (now) that was a big mistake. Long story short, someone overheard us and lifted our ideas. We know this is when and where it happened because my partner date and time stamps all of our notes, and the specific stuff they stole came from that particular session. A friend who did makeup on the show told us the production company had already shot two episodes and scrapped them all of a sudden with a Page 1 rewrite shortly after out writing session. We had/have absolutely ZERO legal case in this matter because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place. It was our mistake to discuss potentially sensitive material in public. Lesson learned. As was stated here before, it was a mixed bag. On the one hand, our show was strong enough to replace one already being shot (and run 4 seasons). On the other, we got absolutely nothing out of it except a very painful lesson. On a side note, our idea wouldn't have gotten bought/made if it hadn't been stolen because the original concept of the other show was close enough that nobody would have touched it because it would look like we copied them. I may have ranted about this on here at the time.
I kind of agree with the smart people here. You have the script, I assume drafts, dated emails, probably, to people you sent it to, etc.--enough to prove it pre-dated the show. If it was the "concept" that was taken, well, plots are plots, stories are stories, very few of which, I imagine, are unique. But if actual dialogue was plagiarized, scenes and sequences duplicated. . .I cant believe that what happened is legal.

People who know more than I do seem to think there may be nothing to be done besides learn a lesson. But I would still maybe think about interviewing more lawyers.

Just my uneducated 2 cents.
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