Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Predictable Ideas

Do writers' ideas get nicked?

Yes, definitely, there are a few industry horror stories about this, none of which I'd be wise to repeat, but it's not going on half as often as you might think.

You might recall a few months back I sent in some radio sketches to the BBC which got me to a workshop with David Mitchell and Mitchell and Webb's producer Gareth Edwards. Today I watched a Mitchell and Webb sketch on the iPlayer which used the same basic idea as one of those sketches. Was it nicked?
When we went to the workshop the Mitchell and Webb series had finished recording. What had happened was that I and whoever wrote the TV sketch had both had a fairly obvious joke idea occur to us that hadn't been 'done' yet.
Predictive text on mobile phones makes predictions.
It's nothing amazing, it was an idea waiting to be had and used, it has probably occurred to hundreds and hundreds of people and the TV writer and I tackled it in different ways. That's how it is with ideas.

Similarly, this weekend Radio 4 begins a series I'm really looking forward to called Soho Stories covering some of the ground of my TV history book from last year, hosted by and featuring several of the people I interviewed for it. Did the series nick my idea?
The book wasn't my initial idea, a large part of the story of the period the series covers has been told before by Michael Darlow, the history is out there waiting to be used and the people I interviewed have more connection to that history than I do. They made it!

There are only so many ideas out there, you can use them to make something that's yours, but they're not yours themselves, they'll go around occurring to everyone.

Also on the radio next week is an Afternoon Play I wrote which is full of ideas from all over the place. All of them original, though I bet not all originally mine.

1 comment:

Robin Johnson said...

I've had so many arguments with people saying something like "I read a book with a wizard/vampire/superhero in it ages ago, therefore [name of popular writer] is a plagiarist."

I'm putting a parody Sherlock Holmes farce on the Fringe next month, and there's another parody Sherlock Holmes farce on the Fringe next month. (Oh, I seem to have effortlessly turned this comment into a crass plug. Sorry.)