How to protect your screenplay and ideas when pitching to investors

Protecting Your Ideas and Screenplay When Pitching to Investors

Legal Strategies from an Entertainment Attorney for
Screenwriters Pitching to Investors

Pitching your concepts and scripts to potential investors is an exciting but nerve-wracking process, but the unfortunate aspect of this process is that not everyone you meet can be fully trusted with the work you’ve put your heart and soul into. That’s why it is absolutely imperative to take all the necessary measures to protect your creative work from being misappropriated or stolen. In this blog, we aim to provide you with several best practices you can employ to safeguard your ideas and screenplay during the investment process:

1. Copyrighting Your Work

Before considering pitching your ideas and screenplay to investors, you must register your work with the United States Copyright Office to firmly establish the ownership of such work and protect your rights. Copyrighting provides legal protection for original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. By obtaining copyright registration, you gain exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and display your creative work as well as the ability to pursue legal remedies against infringement. This is an important piece of entertainment law every artist should know — having a registered copyright is generally a prerequisite for pursuing legal action for infringement in federal court. Once registered, your copyright provides evidence of your ownership and serves as an incredibly valuable deterrent against unauthorized use or reproduction of your creative work. And, in the event of such an infringement, you can swiftly pursue legal action to enforce your rights and seek damages for any harm caused. 

2. Non-Disclosure Agreements

Another effective way to protect your concepts and script is by utilizing non-disclosure agreements (also known as NDA’s) when sharing confidential information with investors or even potential collaborators of the project. An NDA is a legally binding contract that prevents the party you are sharing your works with from disclosing or using any confidential information presented to them without your consent. By having potential investors and collaborators sign an NDA before discussing your project, you can ensure that your creative concepts remain confidential. 

3. Watermarking and Confidentiality Notices

When sharing written materials or visual presentations with potential investors and collaborators, we would suggest watermarking your documents or including confidentiality notices to reinforce the information you are providing is not to be shared without your permission. Having these watermarks and notices can help you establish that the party you shared these documents with was aware of your wish to keep them private, and can prevent them from claiming otherwise. 

4. Limiting Access and Distribution

Especially if your work has not yet been registered with the United States Copyright Office, be selective about who you share your concepts and script with and limit access to any highly sensitive materials. By striking this balance, you can generate interest in your project without divulging everything to players you may not fully trust yet. In entertainment law, limiting access and distribution can also be helpful to establish your desire to keep these materials private, which can help your case if you have to pursue an infringement or theft of ideas claim. 

5. Maintaining Chain of Title

Finally, after following the above best practices and executing your investment strategy perfectly, you have an investor who loves the project! But, as part of the deal, that investor wants an ownership share of your work. If you are assigning or transferring partial ownership of your script or screenplay to an investor or someone else you trust, it is essential to maintain a clear chain of title documenting the transfer of rights and subsequently preventing any future disputes over ownership (which can absolutely destroy productions). A chain of title is a chronological record of all transactions affecting ownership of a copyrighted work, including assignments, licenses, transfers, and any other agreements. By maintaining a comprehensive and preserved chain of title, you establish a clear lineage of ownership for your script or screenplay and avoid potential conflicts or challenges to ownership rights. This documentation is crucial for demonstrating your authority to exploit and monetize the creative work, and thorough documentation is usually required for securing financing, distribution, and other exploitation opportunities. 

Protecting your ideas and screenplay when pitching to investors is hugely important, and copyright registration and chain of title management provide the perfect one-two punch in combatting the improper exploitation of your creative work. Together with other protective measures such as NDA’s, confidentiality provisions, and strategic pitching, these steps help safeguard your creative work and allow you to focus on fundraising with peace of mind. If you want assistance with these protective measures and proper agreements to ensure your work is thoroughly protected, consider hiring an entertainment attorney to make sure it is done right.

For expert guidance on navigating the complexities of copyright law, non-disclosure agreements, and other crucial legal protections when pitching your screenplay to investors, reach out to our seasoned entertainment attorneys at Ameri Law Beverly Hills. We specialize in safeguarding your creative assets to ensure your artistic vision is securely and successfully shared.