Written by Millionaire’s Digest Team Member: Anthony Cosimini
Founder & Owner of: Mistersherbetlemon
Millionaire’s Digest Team, Contributor, Successful Living Writer
“There are plagiarists everywhere and if I share my idea publicly before it’s legally protected then they’re going to steal it from me! Curse those wretched plagiarists!”
There’s a common misconception among new aspiring writers (and other creators) which has baffled me for some time now.
Picture yourself in this scenario; You have an idea for the next big epic novel you’re going to write and it has everything you’ve ever wanted from a story. It’s got the final piece of the puzzle that you’ve often found other stories lacking and someday, this is going to become your one-way ticket to success! Congratulations to you for coming up with something so brilliant and unique!
Because of this, you neglect to share your idea with anyone. You can’t have people hearing about this surge of creative genius you’ve had or even critiquing it for you or one of them is going to end up stealing it from you. Not only will they steal your idea but the fame and glory destined for you that comes with it.
There are so many things wrong about this way of thinking yet the subject gets brought up constantly, particularly within the writing community. I’ve discussed the folly of this mindset so many times that I feel like Bart Simpson writing line after line of the same text on a blackboard.
So for all those writers and any other creators out there I’ve written it one last time to try and set the record straight.
Why You Can’t Own An Idea
The people who worry about their idea being stolen often spend a deal of time considering how to copyright so let’s look at the definition of copyright and what it applies to.
The definition of copyright is as follows:
A lot of these poor, mistaken creators believe that their ideas will be left out for the vultures if they share them before acquiring some kind of copyright protection. What they don’t realize is that copyright protection doesn’t extend to concepts, ideas or expressions.
To sum things up, copyright only applies to original completed works. Essentially, if you can sell it as a finished product then it’s yours by right. Only then can you consider it your own intellectual property and have it protected by copyright.
Ideas don’t fit into that category and that’s not a matter up for debate. Ideas aren’t something that can sell on their own, who in their right mind would buy the pitch without the product? Besides, if your idea only extends so far as the pitch then it’s clearly not as unique and valuable as you think it is. At least, not quite yet.
When your idea only extends as far as the pitch, that pitch can be made out to sound like anything else in it’s genre. Do you have an idea for a comedy about the lifestyle of a dysfunctional family? Sounds a little like the Simpsons to me. You want to write about a detective uncovering a conspiracy? You can compare that to more than one Sherlock Holmes story I’m sure. Should that mean that the owners of those popular creations should have the right to your idea? Absolutely not!
It doesn’t mean your idea won’t someday lead to the creation of something truly epic but while it’s just an idea, you have no claim over it. The individuality of your creation will not begin to show until you actually create it. Until then, it’s just an idea, no matter how brilliant you think it is.
Why People Can’t (and Won’t) Steal Your Idea
While you don’t own the idea itself, it’s still worth taking into consideration the people who might be influenced by your suggestion. Everyone is influenced by someone after all, what’s there to say that person can’t be you?
In that sense, you’re right. There’s always a chance that someone will like your idea and try to create their own version of it…But is that really as bad as you think?
Everyone has their own unique creative process that affects how they create in very unique ways. If you’ve ever taken part in a collaboration project or creative group exercise you’ll have seen this for yourself. Give a group of writers the same story pitch and tell them to get writing. You’ll soon find that they all begin the story in very different ways and in their own personal styles. It doesn’t really matter if someone draws influence from your idea because their story will still turn out completely unique from yours!
A plagiarist on the other hand steals and passes off completed work as their own. They do so because they don’t have the talent or commitment to create by themselves. With that logic, who is going to plagiarize your idea when they have to put in time and effort to finish it on their own? That’s simply not what plagiarists do.
If someone is willing to put in that amount of energy into writing a story from scratch by themselves, that’s a writer. Despite what you might think watching the success of J.K Rowling and George R.R Martin, the creative industry isn’t the typical industry for people seeking easy money. There’s much simpler things to plagiarize than a book for fast cash.
I’m sure a lot of creators dream of the day that they manage to make it big but that’s not the driving force that made them choose this career path. They create because they have a passion for it, which means they probably have plenty of their own ideas at the ready without having to use yours. What? Did you think you were the only one with a good idea in your head?
You can worry all you like about someone stealing your idea but you’re not the only one who thinks their idea is unique. How awesome you think it will be is completely irrelevant to the rest of the world if it’s only an idea. There’s no story until you write it. If you’re so confident in your idea then get on with turning it into a reality so you can show the world just how awesome it really is!
If you’re having difficulty achieving that then the best thing to do is share it with like-minded people. Let them look at your work and critique it, many of them are going through the same struggles you are. Chances are you’ll teach each other a few things that can make your creations even better than you imagined.
I have no doubt that each and every one of you is capable of turning your ideas into something magnificent but make sure you have your priorities in check. Rather than wasting time hiding your creations, why don’t you just get on with creating it?
If it’s as epic as you think then it’s about time you turned that idea into something people would actually want to steal.
Article Credits: Anthony Cosimini
Millionaire’s Digest Team, Contributor