What do you do when you think someone has stolen your story ideas? After all, there is a saying that there are only six basic story ideas in the world; so did our own ideas come from one of them? Of course they did.
However, if you write a story from an idea that just seemed to pop into you head, then some time later (and I stress the 'sometime later' point here) find someone has used that idea to create another story somewhat different but still the same basic plot and ending, should it make you mad? Damn right, it should!
Then when you find that same person has used another of your ideas, well, it's downright cheeky in my opinion. People who steal story idea just go to prove they have no imagination. So it begs the question; are all their stories unoriginal? I think it does, there is an old saying 'monkey see, monkey do' and people without original thoughts or idea will always jump on a good one; if they think they can make a buck or two out of them.
Read this excerpt from a news article by Associated Press:
LOS ANGELES — “Pirates of the Caribbean.” “The Matrix.” “The Last Samurai.” “Broken Flowers.” “Amistad.”
Success isn’t all these films have in common. Each was also challenged by a lawsuit claiming “idea theft” — a common Hollywood problem that lawyers say is likely to continue as long as huge movie studios wield enormous power.
But why would movie studios, with every resource at their disposal, steal stories? Are these writers just cranks, frustrated wannabes with delusions of creativity?
No, says attorney John Marder, who specializes in representing aggrieved writers. Many are victims of a system that favors studios and networks and offers little protection for writers and ideas.
“It’s a small group of people that have all the juice, and if you’re not in that crowd, you’re really at their mercy,” he says. “There’s a real lack of moral compass on the issue in Hollywood. And there’s an ego-driven arrogance about it, like how dare you challenge this producer, this director, this studio? They’ll spend $10 million fighting a case where the demand is $100,000.”
So, lets go back to the original question. What do you do? Well, unfortunately you can do nothing unless the story is a direct rip-off. By that, I mean, it would be plagiarism if it were your story with just minor changes. If it's just the plot idea; however close to your plot, there is no legal redress.
Nevertheless, you can make a noise. Shout about it from the rooftops, write about it on your blog, and post in writers forums. Just be sure to mention no names or the story in question because you might find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.