March 6, 2023

Protecting Ideas: Contract Rights in Story Idea

This Article has been written by Ms. Sejal Dhakad, 1st year BBA LLB Student at Indian Institute of Management Rohtak. 


Somehow, you’ve just written the best story or had the ideal concept for a story, but You’re concerned that it will be stolen away from you. It makes sense to be protective of the written works, especially if you’re a beginning author who wants to safeguard your creations. Although it may be unlikely that someone will replicate your work verbatim, there are actions you can take to know your rights, copyright your work, and make sure it is protected.

 So, what safeguards can you take to protect your work? 

The legal standard, which may surprise many, is that some components of what people refer to as ideas are protected by copyrights, contracts, and other laws. 

Know Your Rights Regarding Your Stories and Ideas

Remember that ideas cannot be copied-  The Copyright Act’s Section 102(b) states that no concept, principle, system, process, way of operation, or discovery idea,  is ever protected by the copyright for an original work of authorship, regardless of how it is expressed, explained, illustrated, or contained in work. This indicates that it is illegal to copyright a concept or idea, according to the law. If you think someone has stolen your concept or idea, you can try to sue them for idea misappropriation, but it can be challenging to establish this in court. 

Despite the fact that you cannot protect your ideas, it can be helpful to keep in mind that there is a very low probability that someone else would implement your concept exactly as you did or as well as you did and then sell it. For this reason, you shouldn’t be reluctant to discuss ideas with reliable friends, writing partners, and colleagues. In addition to being practically impossible, safeguarding your ideas is not as crucial as protecting your written works.

Know the rights you have to safeguard your written ideas. 

Your written work acquires copyright protection the moment it is printed on paper. It is not necessary to publish your writing in order to have it protected, nor do you need to include a copyright symbol to make it protected. Yet, you might wish to think about registering your work for copyright with authorities. You can safeguard how your idea was carried out or expressed by copyrighting your work. This might take the shape of a screenplay, novel treatment, short story, or short story draught. Hence, even if you cannot protect your ideas, you can use copyright to protect the stories you have written. If you find yourself in court over copyright issues, you will need to demonstrate that you were the first to implement the idea and that there are enough similarities between your implementation and someone else’s to imply that your implementation was stolen. You can demonstrate this by registering your work for legal copyright. Also, you should gather proof that you first thought of the execution of your idea. 

Take note of how unlikely it is that someone will steal unpublished work

Someone needs to obtain a copy of your unpublished works in order to develop and advertise it for the market before selling it to an editor or publisher in order to steal it and make money from it. Readers must then read and purchase it. The individual who stole the work might not be able to hide anymore and might be identified at this point. Even if your unpublished work is excellent, there is a very slim chance that someone would go to all this trouble to steal it. It’s crucial to keep in mind how infrequently stolen, and repackaged unpublished material occurs. The majority of writers consider copying another person’s writing to be a lot of labour, and the hassle of doing it may not be worth the hassle of getting found. Nevertheless, since, as I stated earlier, it is rare that someone will attempt to steal your writing word for word, protecting published writing may be of greater importance. If someone tries to steal your published work, you can confront them using copyright and concrete evidence.

Save any correspondence and papers related to the written work in an archive 

Save copies of all emails and other correspondence where you discuss written work with others or send copies of written work to others. This will guarantee that you have access to all related papers and a record of who accessed the written work. A thorough record of any meetings or in-person tells you had regarding the written work should also be kept. In the event of a disagreement regarding ownership of the written work, this will guarantee that you have a record you may consult later.

Visit the copyright registration online to request copyright.

In India, a copyright application must be submitted online using Form IV (Including Statement of Particulars and Statement of Further Particulars) and the prescribed fee by visiting the Copyright Office’s website at Alternatively, the application may be sent by speed post or registered mail to the Copyright Office in the prescribed manner. 

Send your writing to respected editors and publishers 

Always submitting your work to renowned editors and publications is probably one of the best methods to make sure it is safeguarded. Avoid editors and publishers who don’t provide high-quality content and ask you to sign over your rights to your work straight away. 

A trustworthy editor or publisher won’t likely try to take your ideas and sell them or repackage them. Because it will result in negative press and legal complications for them, the majority of large publishers and editors do not want to get engaged in a battle over stolen content. 

What are the specifics of the plot or script covered by IP Law and not protected?

So, we already know that copyright protects ideas and stories from the start. Yet, there may be many uncertainties, such as whether the entire script or story is protected or only a portion of it. Let’s start with the fundamentals and examine the works in which copyright for stories and ideas still exists. 

Scripts and stories that are literary works- Literary works include stories and plays. Therefore they are written works of art. Existing literary works of any kind are not protected by copyright. A plagiarism check is used to determine whether a literary work is original or your own. It may also be used to determine whether a script or other piece of writing is unique.

Designs and logos 

A screenplay or story’s specific words, phrases, or comparable symbols are not protected by copyright. Copyright does not apply to insignificant elements like the manner that text is typed, symbols or other symbolic representations, fonts, or colours used in a tale or script. Nonetheless, there may be an exception if something is extraordinary, such as if a symbol, design, or piece of art is sufficiently original. Similar to the web series Sacred Games, the logo combined Muslim and Hindu Mandala imagery. It was a remarkable work of art that was shown frequently in the film. Such originality is protected by copyright.

Ideas and expression 

There are several moments in both stories and scripts where ideas, concepts, and principles are shared. Though the expression of these elements—such as ideas, concepts, or principles—is not protected by the copyright, it is. 


It takes work to develop a story idea. One must invest a lot of time, creativity, imagination, and effort into writing a story. We have copyright rules in place to safeguard such authorial efforts in the form of scripts and stories. Copyright is extremely important when someone utilizes an author’s protected work without their consent. The author/owner of the copyright may file a lawsuit against the violator of the copyrighted work. 


Aishwarya Says:

Law students often face problems, which they cannot share with their friends and families. We have started a column on our website Student’s Corner. In this column we are talking to several law students about the challenges that they face. Students who are interested in participating in the same, can fill this Google Form.


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