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I am writing a novel whose plot that I just learned is going to be made into a movie---how can I protect myself if similar plot points are used so that I don't get sued and vice versa?

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The plot, or the premise? And by 'vice versa', do you mean how can you protect the film company from being sued by you? I would think you would just... not sue them. –  Kate Sherwood Nov 18 '11 at 10:39
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2 Answers 2

"Similar plot points" is a little vague. Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl Back are "plot points" which have been used since Gilgamesh was a teenager. (ETA and Boy Meets Boy as well, as Gilgamesh himself proved. And Girl Meets Girl.) The question is whether your specific setting, characters, time, and action are similar to the movie which hits the screen.

And even then, it's in the execution and the audience. The Twilight series is set in contemporary times, has a central female character in a love triangle, and features vampires and werewolves in the Northwest U.S. So does Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series... and they could not be more different. Bella is a passive, chaste 17YO human who marries a sparkly vampire. Mercy is a tough, independent thirtysomething shapeshifting coyote who is the object of attention for two werewolves and is "friends" with a very deadly vampire.

Focus on writing your story. Make it the best it can be. When this movie comes out, go see it with a friend, and then ask the friend to read your story with an eye to potential overlap. There may be nothing to change. A lot can happen between script and screen, and between your fingers and your finished novel. I wouldn't sweat it now.

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Actually if memory serves right, it's also Boy Meets Boy since Gilgamesh. –  Unreason Nov 21 '11 at 10:13
    
You are absolutely correct. In fact, I am going to update my answer to reflect that. –  Lauren Ipsum Nov 21 '11 at 12:17
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If your intent is to have the novel published (not self-published) and your story is too close to the movie - I'd guess you won't find a publisher. Problem solved.

Your novel must "stand on its own merits" and if it does then there is a chance that even with a similar plot it might sell but if your novel is not as good/exciting/professional as the movie it will be compared/contrasted with the movie by every agent and editor and there is nothing you can do about that.

Last time I check- plots are not something that can be copyrighted.

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