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Tips of the Trade:

Submission Release Forms

Proceed with caution. Unless a screenplay, treatment, synopsis or other material is submitted through an agent, manager or attorney who is acceptable to the production company or studio, if the material is not altogether returned unopened, it is customary that a Submission Release Agreement is provided to the writer by the producer, studio, etc.

The problem with these forms is that they generally contain language to the effect the production company/studio/agency may have access to or may create or have created screenplays, materials, synopses, treatments or ideas "which may be similar or identical" to the material that you have submitted.

There are also various and sundry indemnities, warranties and other releases of liability provided to the production company/studio/agency that are not favorable to you as the submitting party.

Therefore, this agreement may give the production company/studio/agency "carte blanche" to steal your screenplay and then claim that the screenplay was independently created. If something goes wrong, it also gives the production company/studio/agency the right to sue you for damages in the event that they are sued by a third party for claims related to your screenplay, whether alleged or actual.

Furthermore, these companies very rarely allow any modification or negotiation of these Submission Release Agreements. Therefore, you are faced with three options: 1) do not submit the material at all; 2) bite the bullet and submit; or 3) find an agent/manager/acceptable attorney who can submit the material to such production company, studio or other entity.

You should always protect yourself by placing the appropriate Copyright Notices on the material, register the material with the Copyright Office and register the material with the WGA as set forth in other articles in this section.

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