Legal training for filmmakers & creators

Legal Checklist of screenwriters

Legal Checklist of screenwriters

Picture this: You’re a screenwriter with a brilliant idea for a movie. You spend countless hours hunched over your computer, pounding out page after page of witty dialogue and heart-wrenching plot twists. But in the midst of your creative frenzy, you forget about the legal side of things. Next thing you know, you’re hit with a lawsuit that could sink your entire project faster than the Titanic.

Let’s face it – even the biggest and brightest names in Hollywood have had their fair share of legal woes when it comes to movie-making. Just take the case of the movie ‘The Social Network,’ which chronicled the rise of Facebook. The screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, was sued by two former Harvard students who claimed that the movie defamed them by portraying them as villains in the story. Then there’s the classic film ‘The Wind Done Gone,’ which faced a copyright infringement lawsuit from the estate of Margaret Mitchell, the author of the book on which the film was based.

Coming back home, for instance, the Screenwriter of the movie 3 points was sued for copyright infringement over the screenplay of this critically acclaimed film ‘3 Idiots.’ He was accused of lifting the story from a book without obtaining proper permission, and the legal battle that ensued threatened to tarnish the film’s success. Another example is the 2017 movie ‘Newton,’ which follows the story of an idealistic government clerk who’s determined to conduct free and fair elections in a conflict-ridden area of India. The screenwriter was sued by a former election commissioner who claimed that the movie defamed the Election Commission of India by portraying it as inefficient and corrupt. The legal battle lasted for months and threatened to overshadow the film’s critical acclaim.

Yikes! Fear not, dear writer, because we’ve got your back. We’ve created a handy-dandy checklist to guide you through the three stages of screenwriting: the writing stage, the pitching stage, and the sale stage. Each stage has its own legal pitfalls, so keep this list close to avoid any pesky legal issues and make your screenwriting process a breeze.

Script Writing Stage:

a) Have you registered your screenplay with the Indian Copyright Office or with the Screenwriters Association?

b) Have you included a copyright notice on your screenplay to help establish ownership and deter infringement?

b) Should you consider filing for trademark protection if you have a unique title for your screenplay?

c) Have you verified that you own the rights to your screenplay or secured the necessary rights from others involved in its creation?

d) Have you ensured that any work-for-hire agreements or other contracts related to your screenplay clearly establish ownership and transfer of rights?

e) Do you have a written contract in place when collaborating with others on your screenplay, including co-writers, directors, producers, and actors?

f) Does your contract clearly outline the scope of work, payment terms, and ownership of rights?

Script Pitching Stage

a) Are you cautious when sharing your screenplay with others, especially if you have not yet registered it with the SWA?

b) Are you signing release forms with production houses without giving a thorough reading/legal vetting?

c) Have you considered using a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to protect your intellectual property rights when sharing your screenplay with potential collaborators?

Script sale Stage

a) Are you cautious when selling or licensing your screenplay, and have you ensured that you clearly understand the terms and conditions of the agreement?

b) Have you sought legal advice before entering into any sales or licensing agreements of your work?

c) Have you familiarized yourself with applicable laws and regulations related to screenwriting, such as copyright, entertainment, and contract law in India?

d) Have you ensured that you have proper permissions and clearances for any copyrighted or trademarked material included in your screenplay?

e) Have you protected yourself from defamation or libel claims by ensuring that any potentially defamatory content in your screenplay is backed up by facts or clearly marked as fictional?

f) Have you get done the legal review of your script to avoid any future complications?

This checklist shall protect your interest at every stage of script writing! If you need any help, please write us at

Thank us later!

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