TV or Movie “Development” and “Marketing” Fraud

Do you have an idea for a new television show or movie? Beware of a company claiming it can help “develop” or market your concept or script for sale or license to the TV networks or movie studios. 


Sniff-Out Fraud

Any company demanding money upfront or implying it has certain ties to the TV networks or movie studios could be a fraud.  You may get scammed out of money without gaining in return any chance of actual success.


What “Red flags” Should You Look For?

First of all, we look at whether a company has asked for a significant amount of money (over $400) to review your concept.  A reputable literary or television agent will often earn his or her fee primarily from negotiating deals with studios or networks, not reviewing ideas submitted by amateurs. It is always a red flag when the company claiming a “connection” with studios and promoting new shows makes a slick demand for money upfront.


Secondly, Look at the Promises Made.

Any credible literary agent will tell you how difficult it is to succeed in the TV industry, and perhaps even discourage you from trying to pitch your idea to a studio or publisher, unless your idea speaks for itself apart from any “development” or “marketing.”

True “insiders” know that no one person knows how to “develop” a TV concept better than anyone else, except, of course, a company that actually produces TV shows or movies and has had a string of successes.  Otherwise, the company promising to “develop” your idea would develop its own ideas (and be successful) without you.

Hence,  we are leery of any company claiming it can “develop” the idea of an aspiring concept builder for a new television show or movie.  There is a difference between agents (those who pitch ideas and negotiated deals for a living) and creative people.   Chances are, any faceless company claiming it can both “develop” and “market” your idea is a scam.


Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire.

The scammer may be a total fraud and never intend to provide the “services” it offers, such as gathering data, making a trademark inquiry, or creating a portfolio concerning your idea. These may be scam services offered just to make you think that the scammer is “earning” its fee.


Next, Review the Contract You Were Asked to Sign.

A company that plans to scam you will be careful to craft its “agreement” with you to give the scammer an “out” (or a defense to suit) based on the express language of the contract it drafted.  Hence, you must look very closely at the language of your contract and ask why particular language exists. This is where a good lawyer comes in handy.

For example, you might see language in the agreement, saying that this contract is for a “commercial purpose” only. Why is that there? It’s simple:  the scammer is trying to get around consumer protection laws, which protect consumers and amateur inventors and story creators from fraud and deceptive conduct. The scammer may know there is virtually no chance of commercial success from the “services“ it plans to offer (and hence this is really a scam on consumer), but the contract refers to the services as “commercial.” 

Scare Tactics Your agreement may have language describing the agreement as a “trade secret” to scare you from sharing it with a lawyer, but you are always free to obtain legal advice and review any contract, before or after you signed it.

Fraud is Illegal.  If the scammer company has engaged in fraud, nothing in the contract may be enforced against you, if, for example, the scammer planned to deceive you all along and knew in advance that there was zero chance of you getting value from it services.  The scammer may know in advance that you have zero chance of getting a licensor or licensee agreement via the scammer’s services, or know that the “pitch” services offered by the scammer will have zero value.

Idea Evaluation–Not!  The fraudulent company may also insert language into the contract to say that the scammer has “not evaluated” your concept.  Wait.  Why would that language be there?  Isn’t the whole point of paying a company to “develop” or “refine” one’s idea to enhance the commercial potential?   

Just think about it:  how could the “idea developer” develop the idea without first evaluating it?  It makes no sense.  That goes against the whole purpose of the agreement.  If you see this language in your contract, it’s a huge red flag.  It means that the scammers (1) may expect to be sued, and (2) is free to say in response to the suit, those people who paid us were IDIOTS!  We never “promised” to “evaluate” any idea for commercial success.  Look at our fine print!

We scrutinize any agreement by a purported idea development company that operates as an individual, corporation or LLC.


What Are Your Rights?

You may be entitled to the return or refund of your money, plus an award for punitive or treble (triple) damages plus attorney fees. You should have an attorney review this matter. Consider fighting to get you money back for the exploitation of your show concept, at the very least. 


Where to File Suit?

You may want to file a claim with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), if you think you were deceived.  You should also consider contacting your local county bar association for a lawyer referral.  Our law firm is not currently accepting claims involving script or idea development.