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Pepperdine Law

TV Law Seminar
Class Two
January 20, 2016

TV Development
Developing an idea for a TV project;
Selling (pitching) the idea or
written material based on the idea
(e.g. story, teleplay) to a
producer, production company,
network or financier (collectively,

Idea: 1. Copyright
2014 Andranise Baxter [runner up
in last weeks quiz game]
(p) 2012 Alexander Philip George
Cuffe [winner of last weeks quiz

Article I, Section 8 of U.S.

Congress shall have the powerto
promote the progress of science and
useful arts by securing for limited
times to authors and inventors the
exclusive right to their respective
writings and discoveries

Copyright Act of 1976

Applies to works created since January 1,

Section 102: (a) Copyright protection subsistsin

original works of authorship fixed in any tangible
medium of expression, now known or later
developed, from which they can be perceived,
reproduced, or otherwise communicatedWorks of
authorship include (1) literary works;(6) motion
pictures and other audiovisual works.

Section 102 of 1976 Copyright Act,

(b) In no case does copyright
protection for an original work of
authorship extend to any idea,
regardless of the form in which it is
described, explained, illustrated, or
embodied in such work.

Idea or Expression?
Boy meets Girl
Boy meets Boy
Girl meets Girl and Boy

Caitlyn meets __________

Idea or Expression? contd

A Caucasian male lawyer, afflicted
with AIDS, has an understanding
family and Latino live-in lover;
adored opera and wrote his (the
lawyers) own memorial service; and
was fired by his law firm after
developing visible lesions on his face.

Idea: 2. Contracts

Implied Contract

Desny v. Wilder, 46 Cal. 2d 715,

299 P. 2d 257 (1956)

Desny Legal point 1

A promise, made after conveyance
of the idea to the promisor, to pay
reasonable value for an idea which
does have value to the promisor and
which has been conveyed to, and has
been used by, him is another

Desny Legal Point 4

Holding: recovery may be
based on contract either express or
implied. The person who can and
does convey a valuable idea to a
producer who commercially solicits
the service or who voluntarily
accepts it knowing that it is tendered
for a price should likewise be entitled
to recover.

Desny Legal Point 5

where an idea has been conveyed with the
expectation by the purveyor that compensation
will be paid if the idea is used, there is no reason
why the producer who has been the beneficiary
of the conveyance of such an idea and who finds
it valuable and is profiting by it, may not then for
the first time, although he is not at that time
under any legal obligation to do, promise to pay
a reasonable compensation for that idea-that is,
for the past service of furnishing it to him-and
thus create a valid obligation.

Desny Legal Point 5 contd

But, assuming legality of consideration, the
idea purveyor cannot prevail in an action to
recover compensation for an abstract idea
unless (a) before or after [emphasis added]
disclosure he has obtained an express promise
to pay, or (b) the circumstances preceding and
attending disclosure, together with the
conduct of the offeree acting with knowledge
of the circumstances, show a promise usually
referred to as implied or implied-in-fact.

Post-Desny cases
Contract for sale of idea can be implied
Fact of disclosure and discussion of
story idea, Blaustein v. Burton, 9 Ca.
App. 3rd 161 (1970)
Acceptance of idea with full
knowledge of expectation of
payment for use, Whitfield v. Lear,

Implied contract: not preempted by

Grosso v. Miramax Film Corp., 383 F.
3d 95 (9th Cir. 2004): implied
contract claim not preempted by
copyright claim
Grosso followed by 9th Circuit in TV
case in 2011

Assignment for 1/27/16

Review Writers Agreement
(handout), and think of how to
negotiate it on behalf of Writer. Will
ask you to redraft provisions during
next class.