The Picture is Yours Plagiarism and the Media Industry

The film and television is a massive industry. However, despite its size, larger corporations still feel to need to plagiarise from smaller, independent artists. For example, Shia LaBeouf’s short film premiered at the May 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It wasn’t until it was posted online that viewers began to notice that the film was almost an exact adaptation of a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, best known for Ghost World. Clowes told Buzzfeed “The first I ever heard of the film was this morning when someone sent me a link. I’ve never spoken to or met Mr. LaBeouf. I’ve never even seen one of his films that I can recall — and I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that he took the script and even many of the visuals from a very personal story I did six or seven years ago and passed it off as his own work. I actually can’t imagine what was going through his mind.”

Another example comes from one of the largest corporations in the world, Disney. Mandeville-Anthony claimed that he had submitted a script with character art to the studio in that closely resembled the anthropomorphic autos in the two animated films. At the time, he sought an injunction to prevent the June release of Cars 2. Unfortunately, a federal judge sided with the Walt Disney Company and Pixar, finding that the studios did not steal the ideas for Cars and Cars 2 from Mandeville-Anthony.

So what can you do if a large corporation steals your idea? If a successful, well-financed film company simply steals your idea, you can do nothing about it. They will out-finance you in any legal case and, if you abandon your case, you will be liable for their costs.If a small film company steals your idea they may possibly, if you are lucky, give you a percentage of the film’s net profit (which will be zero), no salary and a producer credit. If a small film company screws you and makes an unsuccessful film from your idea and you sue them, you are throwing your money away in legal costs because the film made no money and there are no profits in which you can share. If a small film company screws you and miraculously makes a successful film from your idea, gets shedloads of money and you sue them then, again, they will simply out-finance you and, if you abandon your case, you will be liable for their costs. If a TV company steals your idea, you are similarly screwed. You cannot afford to sue a TV company. They will out-finance you in the legal process and, if you abandon your case, you will be liable for their costs.

Postguys can help to protect you from these abuses with advice and mechanisms to protect your copyright.