How do I license a production that was loosely based on an old idea with a childhood friend?

UPDATED: Jan 12, 2015

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How do I license a production that was loosely based on an old idea with a childhood friend?

They aren’t going to be doing any work but I don’t want them to chase after me if it’s successful. Do I buy them out and make them sign a contract that I own the idea? Or have a contract that the idea did come from them but they get credit on the show credits by receive no money?

Asked on January 12, 2015 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

An idea is not protecible intellectual property, unless there was some agreement (like a confidentiality agreement, nondisclosure, a contract to share proceeds, etc.) which prevents one person from using it without the permission of or payment to the other. Actual creative work, like character sketches, written text, etc., is different--that is the copyright material of the creator (unless there was an assigment of the rights to another, or the work was created as part of employment or was contracted to be made as a work for hire). You can't use creative work, like sketches, character designs, or text, without coming to an agreement with your old friend, but you can use the idea freely unless there was some agreement.

For example: say you and he talked about doing a TV show about a space monkey (from the 50s or 60s, when the sent monkeys into space) who, exposed to radiation, became intelligent. You could do a show based on that idea; but you couldn't use any character sketches or other work you'd done back them on the idea.


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