Imagine for a moment that you are a screenwriter who has just thought of an idea for a film. You quickly jot down the idea and rush it over to a friend who works for a production company. The idea is then pitched to the studio. Although they like the idea, because it's not fully formed, they decide not to invest in it. Later on though, your idea does become a movie without your help.
The question then arises: do you have a case for copyright infringement or not? As we pointed out in a February post, the answer to this question is likely no. That's because the United States Patent and Trademark Office doesn't afford copyright protection to ideas. Even writing the idea down does not necessarily afford it protection under current law.
So how can you guarantee copyright protection for a creative idea? Because you can't copyright an idea, you'll want to make sure that you develop the idea as much as possible before pitching it to a company within the entertainment industry. What will make the idea unique is your expression of it and the character you give it. This expression of the idea is copyrightable and affords you intellectual property rights under the law.
Because ideas could potentially be worth a lot of money in the entertainment industry once they are fully formed, protecting the creative work that comes from your mind is very important. But if you're like a lot of people around California, you may not have the knowledge necessary to protect your rights or know how to seek redress when your rights have been violated. This is why it's important to talk to a lawyer who has experience with entertainment law because they can make sure you are afforded the protection of the law at every step of the creative process.