When you're trying to break into Hollywood, your ideas are your currency. The spec scripts you write and pitch decks you make are your ticket in the door.

But in the last few decades, we've seen some disturbing accusations come out, where people have submitted spec scripts around town and felt like they've been ripped off.

It sucks to talk about the darker nature of this town, but great ideas are valuable. And, many times, they can be worth stealing.

There's also no one more willing to share ideas than someone breaking into Hollywood. You have to in order to be read and make a name for yourself.

So, how can you protect yourself while breaking into Hollywood?

Let's dig in.

Copyright Your Screenplay

For newer writers trying to make a name for themselves, you should start by copyrighting your screenplay. The basic idea behind this is establishing when you had the idea.

That way, when you start to send that draft around and share it with people, you can have a legal date where you committed those ideas to paper.

You can also register the script with the WGA, which is another way to prove when you put these ideas on paper, but has less legal protection than a copyright.

But there's some bad news in all of this...

You Can't Copyright Ideas

The biggest danger to writers is the fact that you can't copyright ideas. It's why when you go in for pitches, you have to wash your hands of what you say in the room, because executives can basically take the ideas you say aloud.

Also, someone can read your spec, think you have a great idea, and then write the same one. As long as they don't use exact dialogue, they can pretty much get away with it.

Let's look at a case study.

How To Protect Yourself From Being Ripped Off 

This YouTube video detailing a case against the movie Malignant and James Wan disturbed us here at No Film School.

It details how a writer sent a spec out, possibly had his idea stolen, and then lost the legal battle in the end. It's worth a watch, even if the results are hard to stomach.

While these are just accusations, the video details how easy it is to get in with the wrong crowd in Hollywood and to possibly have your idea stolen.

One thing is clear, the person who made the video actually made every effort to track where their script was sent and when.

Our advice is to do the same thing.

What Steps Can You Take to Protect Your Ideas?

When you send the specs out, keep track of them in Excel or another software program. Know who you submitted to and when, and also track their responses. A paper trail is always wise, but especially for protective creative licensing.

Many amateur writers send specs out with a release they want producers to sign. This seems like protection, but what you probably will get back a lot of refusals to read. Most producers know they have the power in that situation and don't want to jump through hoops.

They also don't want false accusations or hiccups.

The best steps are to copyright and track everywhere you send that script.

Does This All Seems Futile?

How to Protect Your Ideas in Hollywood

Naked Lunch

Courtesy of film-grab.com

We totally understand how this may feel to you. Sending scripts out in Hollywood is taking an inherent risk. It is.

This article focused on the negative, but only because it's good to keep track of these situations and learn how to handle them. Cation is a as great a skill as any on the boulevard of dreams and storytelling.

In actuality, we're talking about a small fragment of specs sent out that get stolen, and legal recourse is always available to you if you think you have a case.

Breaking into Hollywood is hard and incredibly scary. But if you take the proper precautions, you can protect yourself and your ideas.

Stealing is not inevitable. It's a rare occurrence. But it doesn't mean you shouldn't lock your doors and install security cameras.

And keep writing. Your ideas are the best way to break in and get noticed. And they have a ton of value. Just try to get them in the right hands.

Let us know what advice or experiences you have in the comments.