James Napper III

LETTERS OF THE LAW: Life Rights and How to Protect Your Ideas

by James Napper, III on August 7, 2014


In Letters of the Law, entertainment attorney James Napper, III discusses legal topics and answers questions submitted by Scene Magazine readers, both entertainment professionals and the general public. Submit your legal questions to lettersoflaw@scenelouisiana.com. To contact James Napper directly, email jnapper@napperlaw.com or visit www.napperlaw.com.

Q: I have a great idea for a reality TV show. There’s no script for a reality TV show or documentary, so how do I protect my idea if I can’t copyright it?

You are correct in that an idea by itself is not copyrightable or protectable, but there are a few procedures I would suggest that will afford you some protection of a truly unique concept.

First, I would suggest you write a treatment for the show. The treatment would then be protected under copyright law. As you may or may not know, copyright protection subsists from the moment of creation. This means that any work that meets the criteria of originality sufficient for copyright protection will be protected from the very moment that it is reduced to a tangible form. Writing a treatment of the potential reality show amounts to reducing that idea to a tangible form under copyright law. With that said, I would suggest that your treatment be very specific so as to protect your idea as opposed to something that is very generic and likely difficult to distinguish.

The other step I would suggest you take is maintaining the confidentiality of your material. In doing so, you must maintain the information in a confidential manner at all times. Require any person to whom you are disclosing the material to sign a non-disclosure and non-circumvent agreement. There’s more!