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A producer or an agent has asked to read your script? Congratulations! You must be thrilled. But wait! What if he steals your idea?
Okay, relax. While plagiarism happens and is therefore a concern, it's a minor one. A legitimate agent or producer won't steal your work. If he's interested in your script, it's easier to pay you than to re-invent it himself. Besides, litigation is expensive, and his reputation is at stake.
There's little reason to become paranoid about this issue, especially since there are precautions you can take. Follow these guidelines to protect both you and the people you pitch to:
• Register your script with the US Copyright Office and the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Reputable agents, producers, and competitions will strongly recommend or even insist you register your script before showing it to them. While registration doesn't prevent plagiarism, it does provide you with legal proof of the material's existence. If you go to court, the WGA can testify to that evidence. http://www.wgawregistry.org
• Be selective of whom you pitch to. Try to find out a little bit about each person seeing your script. Work only with agents who are WGA signatories. A WGA-signatory agent is bound to abide by the WGA's rules, written to protect the writer. You'll find a list at http://www.wga.org.
• Keep all notes, drafts, and correspondence about your script, from scribbles on a napkin to the finished product. Create a paper trail that proves you are the author of the script.
• Establish a clear business relationship. If vague promises are made, follow up in writing ASAP confirming the agreement as you understood it.
• Finally, keep in mind that ideas and storylines can't be protected. Only your script falls under protection.