Protecting and Over-Protecting Your TV Script: Copyright, Ownership and Idea Theft (PT23)

Protecting and Over-Protecting Your TV Script: Copyright, Ownership and Idea Theft (PT23)

Alex and Nick discuss the contentious subject of copyrighting and idea theft in television. From the WGA to the Copyright Office, we take a look at the basics of protecting your work.

What does a copyright do? Should you register your TV spec script or pilot? Have there been cases of TV copyright infringements? Why is it important for TV writers to share their work?

The Paper Team consults their legal team…



1 – What is copyright or WGA West Registry vs. Copyright Office (1:01)
2 – Common questions about copyright (04:06)
3 – International copyright (9:55)
4 – When you should copyright and if copyright is enforced in TV (12:00)
5 – Why you should share your work instead of over-protecting it (19:02)
Takeaways (28:14)


WGA West Registry
U.S. Copyright Office
Copyright Act of 1976
Authors’ Rights (AKA “droit d’auteur”)
“Judge Rejects New Girl Idea Theft Case” – Variety
“Forest Park’s Breach of Contract Suit Over USA Network’s ‘Royal Pains’ Not Preempted by Copyright Act” – Seattle Copyright Watch
John August’s thoughts on idea theft
“Speccing and Sharing Star Trek: Terran” – TV Calling
Javier Grillo-Marxuach’s “Experimental Design Bureau”
John August’s draft library
“A darkly comedic Seinfeld spec script set days after 9/11” – AV Club

Special thanks to Jason J. Cohn for helping us edit this episode.

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Hi there!

Alex Freedman

I'm Alex Freedman, the writer behind TV Calling.

I started this site in 2008 to chronicle my own journey in television writing.

693 posts and 9 years later, TV Calling has also become a comprehensive resource dedicated to the full TV writing industry — from spec to success.

Everything here is written by yours truly (unless otherwise credited), so feel free to blame me for any missed deadlines.

I hope you'll answer your television calling, and join me in this creative journey.

Write on.

P.S.: New around? You should start here.

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