Remember “Separated Rights”?

In a recent post, I mentioned “separated rights” and said I’d explain them soon. Well, those rascals at The Artful Writer beat me to it. Here is an excellent explanation of separated rights.

I would add that one of the many reasons “separated rights” are important for emerging writers is that, in addition to WGA minimum requirements, many negotiated terms of the writer’s contract are sometimes keyed to a determination of “separated rights.” For example, the amount of contingent compensation (money you get if the film is actually made), amount of and/or right to pay for sequels (even if you don’t write them), and amount of and/or right to pay for television series based on the movie are often impacted by whether you have separated rights.

Who determines which writer has separated rights? The WGA.


Hate to coattail another blog, but they keep putting up important stuff. At The Artful Writer, Craig Mazin explains your rights to reacquire your work from a WGA signatory company if it doesn’t get made. Craig is very knowledgeable and very involved in the WGA. If you are a writer who has sold a work to a WGA signatory (or to anyone who incorporates the WGA terms into their contract) and that work has been sitting around gathering dust, this is your chance to ask Craig your questions. Go to this post at The Artful Writer before your chance slips away.

P.S. If you do not have a work sold to a WGA signatory, don’t waste time asking questions over there. It really doesn’t matter at this point. Bookmark the post for later and focus on the writing.


I get asked this a lot and I’m tired of answering it; I have pages to write. So here it is, hopefully for the last time. Some newbie writers worry about their ideas or entire scripts being stolen. In fact, all of us worry about our ideas being stolen to some degree. Here’s my take on the best way to avoid that, both as a writer who, of necessity, circulates a lot of ideas in the community and as an entertainment attorney. This is not legal advice – just thoughts on a weblog.

1. Similar ideas always exist and always come from multiple sources. If your so-called idea is just a vague general concept, there’s not much that can or, in my opinion, should be done to protect it. If you believe in your idea, flesh it out, write something down, maybe even put in the real work it takes to write the script.

2. Written ideas can be copyrighted. Copyright your screenplays and, if written down in sufficient detail, your ideas, too. Do not bother to send them into the WGA script vault or any of the others around town. It is just as easy to fill out a proper copyright form and send it to the Copyright Office. A real copyright sometimes gives you additional legal rights. The link you just passed takes you to a page where you can get the right form and simple directions to register your copyright.

3. Keep a written record of who you share your ideas with. If you talk to someone about your idea, put it down on your log, including the date, time, and substance of what you shared.

4. If you are not represented by an agent or manager or if you present ideas on your own even as a represented writer, write a confirming letter immediately following your presentation of the idea – just a short note that confirms in a nice way that you presented such and such an idea and appreciate it being considered. If you are represented by an agent or manager, talk to him or her about the best way to confirm an idea presentation. The agent or manager may prefer to do the follow up.

Finally, expect similar ideas to surface and, often, beat your idea out. It’s part of doing business. If you are really worried, write a good script. Those are much harder to steal.