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If You Have A Screenplay Worth Millions, Shouldn't You Back It Up?

from the courts-think-so dept

Here's a fun story for a Friday. It appears that a guy who had written three screenplays (creatively titled: "Color of Tulip," "Blood on Ice," and "Blood on Seven Hills") saved them all to his desktop and didn't bother backing them up. At one point, he had entered into negotiations to sell the screenplays for $2.7 million, but those talks never went anywhere. However, sometime after this, he signed up for DSL from SBC (now AT&T). When the technician came to his house to install the DSL, he tried to "help" by cleaning up the "unused" items on the guy's desktop -- which, of course, included the screenplays. Eventually, SBC paid for data recovery (and fired the technician), which seems fair. The data recovery process didn't fully work, since it wasn't done until quite some time after the files were deleted, by which point the data had been overwritten. However, the guy wanted more, claiming that the screenplays were worth the millions he never actually got in a signed deal. The courts, however, appear to disagree, with a jury noting that he was also at fault for not making a backup of such "valuable" files. While it's true that the tech never should have deleted the files, it's a bit of a stretch to believe that they're worth millions without any deal in place. The lack of a backup suggests that the guy didn't even value the content enough to do the most basic of backups.

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  • icon
    Aaron deOliveira (profile), 7 Jul 2006 @ 9:55am

    reminds me of the "Jesus saves..." punchline

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Aaron deOliveira (profile), 7 Jul 2006 @ 9:58am

    what's with the "(Additions included Napster and RealPlayer and their related media files.)" in the article. how is that even revelant? a stab at Music Piracy?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      JerseyRich, 7 Jul 2006 @ 1:14pm

      Re: Aaron

      what's with the "(Additions included Napster and RealPlayer and their related media files.)" in the article. how is that even revelant? a stab at Music Piracy?

      No, the author just mentioned that some of the 4,134 files that overwrote the screenplays were Napster and RealPlayer files.

      I can almost guarantee that the guy who 'talked' to the screenplay-writer about paying him $2.7 million only testfied because the guy promised him a cut of the settlement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    COD, 7 Jul 2006 @ 10:17am

    Doesn't the clean up unused icons wizard just move then all to a folder labeled "unused icons?" It doesn't actually delete anything - not on my PC anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave, 7 Jul 2006 @ 10:32am

    litigation USA

    Reminds me of a Hotel where a friend worked at. They forgot to give a guest a wakeup call and he missed his flight. He sued them because of a lost business deal.

    I worked in a small repair shop and we get them to sign a form absolving us of any liability in the event of data loss. Remember when you didn't need a lawyer to work in IT.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Riddelin, 7 Jul 2006 @ 10:52am

    We are the real victims here...The world will never know the beauty that was Blood on the Ice, a tragic love story that may have included some hockey.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ethically Bankrupt, 7 Jul 2006 @ 10:52am

    1001 ways to make $$ on the net

    If he had won.....
    I find a sleazy Hollywood type, enter into faux negotiations worth millions, delete some non-existant 'screenplays' from my machine and sue the last tech to touch it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I see stupid people, 7 Jul 2006 @ 10:53am

    HaHaHaHa

    Just another reason why stupid people should not even be allowed to touch a computer!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MEoip, 7 Jul 2006 @ 10:55am

    Bright

    The guy isn't that technically bright, he probably paid $200 for the installation, which takes 30 minutes, so I’m sure he either has cash to waste or can do very little on the computer.
    Of course I use writely to write so Google does my back ups...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2006 @ 11:34am

    Ya, the writer was an idiot but it also points out rather glaringly what an incredibly stupid "feature" the "clean up unused items on the desktop" is in Windows.

    It really is just a disaster waiting to happen and a nasty, nasty trick MS plays on its customers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ForkBoySpam, 7 Jul 2006 @ 11:49am

    Clean Up

    Though by default the feature is turned on, and should be off - there by allowing those that want to use the feature a chance to turn it on - the "Clean Up Unused Icons" feature only moves them to a folder on the PC and does not delete them. The Tech had to have deleted the items manually.

    Still the user should have backed them up, that's just common sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John, 7 Jul 2006 @ 12:15pm

    Studio Have a Copy

    If he had entered into negotiations to sell the screenplays with a studio or whatever wouldn't they have had a copy? I mean something they considered paying millions for you think they'd at least save them, no?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Comboman, 11 Jul 2006 @ 6:31am

      Studio Have a Copy? No

      If he had entered into negotiations to sell the screenplays with a studio or whatever wouldn't they have had a copy? I mean something they considered paying millions for you think they'd at least save them, no?

      If he had given the studio a copy they wouldn't need to buy it. Hollywood does NOT operate on the honor system. When selling a script, you give the studio what's called a script treatment, a couple page summary of the characters & plot (studio execs don't have time to read scripts anyway).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MissingFrame, 7 Jul 2006 @ 12:16pm

    a stab at Music Piracy?

    No, that was to show the guy had no regard for the integrity of the "system in question" ... like if you really deleted any files worth more than $100K you would really send the computer to a shop without touching a thing instead of browsing for good tunes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Topher3105, 7 Jul 2006 @ 12:20pm

    First

    I mean, I now it is hard to reproduce something like a screenplay from memory, the guy should have a pretty clear memory about how the plot went. If the guy is worth his salt as a writer, then he will rewrite the plays, and by doing so, make them better in the process. This is of course assuming the guy was sober when he writes.

    Second, get a friggin clue buddy. Saving documents to your desktop, the guy probably had hundreds of icons on his desktop. I can't stand moronic people that don't LEARN how to use computers, they just are lazy and drop files on the desktop because they are too stubborn to figure out how to do things properly.

    In any case, I agree that this case would have been tossed out. I mean if the guy got paid and then the files were deleted, and he had to return the money, there would be damages, but not before he sold the screenplays.

    Finally, 2.7 million for 3 screen plays? The average Hollywood screen play for unknown or first time writers is around $100,000, and that is being generous. Who is this guy, Michael Crichton?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wizard Prang, 7 Jul 2006 @ 2:24pm

    "The data recovery process didn't fully work, since it wasn't done until quite some time after the files were deleted, by which point the data had been overwritten"

    ...which says to me that they were not that important.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Alan Green, 8 Jul 2006 @ 1:40pm

    duh

    too stupid for words

    z
    ps - if this post gets deleted accidently just drop a line - i have it backed up on 4 different drives

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pseudonym, 8 Jul 2006 @ 5:36pm

    Advice for the budding screenwriter...

    For the benefit of those who don't know about the business of screenwriting, it's pretty clear that this guy knew nothing.

    Here's what you're supposed to do. You write your screenplay (though you should probably even do this with a treatment), then you print out a copy and seal it in an envelope. You lodge this with the local Writer's Guild.

    Then, and only then, can you start negotiating.

    This serves multiple purposes, the most important of which is that if, after negotiations fail, you find the studio coming out with a similar film, you have proof that you had the story earlier.

    If this "writer" had taken this basic precaution, he'd still have his screenplay today. Incidentally, AFAIK it costs no more to lodge a CD in the same envelope as your hard copy. A small price to pay for an off-site backup.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Amy Alkon, 9 Jul 2006 @ 8:20pm

    Real writing is such torture, I can't imagine any professional writer not keeping multiple copies of his work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Brandon Rusnak, 10 Jul 2006 @ 10:46am

    Recycle Bin?

    Did this tech also delete the files from the recycle bin? Personally I NEVER will let anyone other than myself near my computer.

    The more important question is why no backup?

    Hasn't this guy ever heard of floppy, cd, dvd, external hard drive, Acronis True Image, Ghost, USB drive, Zip Drive, tape backup, offsite backup, etc?

    BMR

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sagar Engineer, 10 Jul 2006 @ 10:58am

    Umm

    They were still in his Recycle Bin but he must have emptied it himself. lmao

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sagar Engineer, 10 Jul 2006 @ 10:58am

    Umm

    They were still in his Recycle Bin but he must have emptied it himself. lmao

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    rick morris, 10 Jul 2006 @ 11:02am

    Screenplay worth millions

    If someone comes into my home and damages my property (even though it is unintentional), they are liable for damage recovery. For instance, when I was moving my household goods, the shipper would damage my furniture. The shipper always paid for repairs.

    In the case of intellectual property, such as written memoirs, manuscripts, screenplays, etc. it is difficult to assign a value, and in most cases the property cannot be recovered nor replaced with new materials.

    I suppose it is possible to purchase insurance for protecting intellectual property, but the difficulty of assigning a value is still unresolved.

    My grandmother wrote an auto-biography and I have the original manuscript. It was never published, and yet is totally irreplaceable. It cannot be re-created should be accidently damaged.

    Suppose someone came into my home, and damaged this "priceless" manuscript. Perhaps, I had it in my kitchen where I was reading it, and the repairman accidently spilled water on the manuscript rendering it unusable. Is the repairman liable for damages? How much?

    Am I liable for handling the manuscript carelessly by leaving it in my kitchen? Did I cause the repairman to accidently spill water? Could I forsee that someone could spill water in my kitchen onto my "priceless" manuscript?

    Should I take reasonable steps to safeguard my manuscript from accidental damage?

    I am sure everyone has "priceless" possessions, that are not protected from damage. Yet when someone accidently damages my stuff in my home, I would expect them to compensate me for my loss.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      J Smooth, 11 Feb 2007 @ 12:59am

      True writers don't trust computers to store script

      AS I a screenwriter, if you write a screenplay, you should always backup your scripts. If you're a real screenwriter, you should remember what you wrote in your screenplays. If I lost a script, I can fabricate the story again. The dialogue and visuals will not be exact, but the concept would remain similiar to the original idea. Real writers will keep notes in a book. I backup my screenplays on multiple locations such as memory sticks, discs, notebooks, pocket books and by e-mails. Maybe this guy will learn and not make the mistake again. Scripts take time to write and it really sucks to allow a computer that is usually unstable to hold them. Screenwriters that worked before computers didn't have the luxury of technology. It's a learning lesson. Maybe you can use it in a future screenplay.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me, 10 Jul 2006 @ 11:02am

    Backups are hard... Print button is easy.

    Ok I can understand how backups may seem hard to a basic home user, but the print button works.. how much did he waste with the legal effort - just to find out he was an idiot?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dna, 10 Jul 2006 @ 11:16am

    Should have used this...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Asky, 10 Jul 2006 @ 11:17am

    They'll do it every time (with apologies to Jimmy

    See: http://tinyurl.com/9s6c6
    Washington Post, 12/22/05
    Student Finds a Stolen Thesis by Thinking Like a Thief

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John, 10 Jul 2006 @ 12:27pm

    I work in the tech industry and we get this all the time. Thats why we litterly inforce a databack up and make them sign a disclaimer before we work on thier machine. I had one guy claim he had 22 million in bank statements ONLY stored on his computer and they went missing after a virus removal....... people will do anything to get money these days. IF it is that damn important take 10mins out of your day and burn a cd....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jonathan, 10 Jul 2006 @ 12:52pm

    Seems to me...

    If he actually sent the files to publishers, you'd think he'd have a copy in his email 'sent' folder... or a hard copy (if they were mailed). Seems completely unreasonable that he would not have *any* version of such "valuable" work. Thank god the justice system came through this time!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Court, 10 Jul 2006 @ 1:06pm

    Whatever idiot wrote the alleged plays is a moron. In hollywood you submit everything you write to the guild, before you negotiate with a studio. I know there are a few people who don't, but even then you have a hard copy, although most of the time, the studio use them to hold the starewell doors open. (I AM NOT kidding about this), Scripts are doorstops everywhere on studio lots. A nice 2 foot high stack will hold a wide door open for all :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Seth Clark, 10 Jul 2006 @ 1:10pm

    2 Words - US DataVault

    Whether or not he should or should not have an idiot technician 'clean up' his files, he should have stuff backed up.
    I learned the hard way last year and lost everything and started backing up everything with US DataVault offsite.

    Sure enough, my son got on my computer and erased all of my documents last week. All I can say is, thank God I had that service.
    And no, I'm not an employee, I just like the service :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jose Rembro, 10 Jul 2006 @ 1:39pm

    1 Word

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOB!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Barasawa, 10 Jul 2006 @ 2:53pm

    Two old an Relevant Sayings...

    So, when did your data become important to you? Before, or after you lost it?

    The first 3 rules of computers.
    1: Backup
    2: BACKUP
    3: See rules 1 and 2

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chad, 10 Jul 2006 @ 3:30pm

    I do in home repairs on computers as part of my job as a tachnician, and I would say almost every computer that I work on has the desktop filled with useless garbage. But, there's no reason that anything on the desktop could have been interfering with his DSL connection.

    When I, or anyone working in my department is on someones comnputer you delete nothing without asking. Although my understanding on the way unions work with screenwriting there shouldnt be anyway that another copy of his workn shoulnt exist, and the lawsuit is riduculous. (Not to mention any data revovery software could bring these files back) the AT&T was still an idiot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    orval, 10 Jul 2006 @ 3:40pm

    rick morris

    Whoah Rick, you sound like an ass.

    If you invite someone into your home then I would say, yes, the damage they cause is your responsibility.

    You're the same guy who trips on someone else's property and blames them for it. In any case, is anything ever your fault or do you constantly pass blame?

    Take some responsibility. You write passionately about it "being your stuff in your house." They're also "your guests" and it's "your responsibility to ensure that your valuable belongings are secured when your guests are about."

    You define the value of that manuscript by your actions you take with it. If you leave it out while company is around, you also agree to take the risks associated with that. The same with hired help. In the case of the movers you mention, you are paying them to "safely move" the items, and thus compensation for damage can be expected. In the case of you leaving out your precious memiors when the electrician comes over, then you may as well tell me that your delicate stained glass floors are damaged when you asked a squad of tap dancing elephants over to watch TV with you. The manuscript and the electrician have nothing to do with each other, and if you left it in his way then be a man about the consequences.

    In the case of this article, the whole thing was likely a scam. The worth of digital files is often under debate - and in this case, the judge was right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    wisaac00, 10 Jul 2006 @ 3:59pm

    No Backup?

    I know that when I do something that is important to me, I immediately get nervous, and backup files to as many places as I possibly can. I am surprised that he didn't do the same. I wonder if maybe he did, but knew that there was potentially more money to be made by suing SBC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anthony, 10 Jul 2006 @ 6:04pm

    the fact

    the fact that it is named 'unused' is becaused it has been unused,
    It was a plot by this guy to earn some unearned money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Simply Amazing!, 10 Jul 2006 @ 7:39pm

    oh man

    Better luck next time ! . o O o O (( maybe he could write a screenplay about this experience )

    Now, the people linked from the following page ... on the other hand, wrote and produced a real entertaining movie with their own screenplay ! :) .. available for free over the net ->

    http://starbase.globalpc.net/~xmx/starwreck.php

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    steve, 10 Jul 2006 @ 7:40pm

    backup backup

    For about $100 a year this guy could have saved himself. There are hundreds of great online services that would have helped him to backup his data. In no real order Try: Evault.com atbackup.com backup.com xdrive.com BackupRight.com

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Big Louie, 10 Jul 2006 @ 7:40pm

    dudes, the guy is, as we speak, writing a screenplay about this very event, that he will sell for at least 10 million, cause there are jerks who pay $10+ to see stupid movies like that,

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Claudiu, 10 Jul 2006 @ 10:40pm

    always backup important files. Doesn't matter if you simply copy them or use a backup program (like Backup4all - http://www.backup4all.com) but you always have to have an alternative.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Moody, 13 Oct 2007 @ 7:55am

    Should be using

    PerfectBackup ( http://www.perfectbackup.co.uk ). I use them for my important documents. It backs up my important data automatically every night and I have the security of knowing it offers a £1,000,000 data restore guarantee.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    james lee, 16 Jan 2008 @ 3:38pm

    online backup for students

    backupanytime.com offer free backup for masters level students and half price backup for life for graduates. The commercial packs are not cheap (but offer the longest retention period in the industry) but the idea seems to be that when we get employment our boss will pay for commercial backup on foot of our account and famialirity with the product. I will be working for myself next year writing a book so no chance of that but backupanytime are not to know I intend continuing the free ride.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    B, 12 Feb 2009 @ 7:07am

    I use a dvd-rw to back up my USB key. In case if files were to become corrupted.
    I have a crap full of files, mainly music and movies burnt in DVDS and CDS in about two spindles worth.
    I have a feeling that I would need 2 8GB USB keys and one external hard drive to back up all of my stuff. As precaution back up the external hard drive.
    I hear the new external toaster hard drive dock stations are adequate

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jax, 12 Jul 2009 @ 6:25pm

    lol the recyling bin is where i keep my porn. i don't let anyone delete shit from my RECYCLING BIN

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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