Search form

Mind Your Business: Protecting Your Ideas

In "Mind Your Business," Mark Simon pitches the two teams artists can play for "Protect Your Idea at All Costs" and "I'll Pitch To Anyone, Anywhere, Any Time."

Mark Simon as the rights referee. All images courtesy of Mark Simon.

Please welcome our two teams to the field. In the outfield we have team "Protect Your Idea at All Costs." Up at bat is team "I'll Pitch To Anyone, Anywhere, Any Time."

I've been refereeing these games for a long time. I've heard it all. All the excuses. All the fears. All the hopes. All the dreams.

Putting these teams together was easy. I separated the players by those who are fearful of someone stealing their ideas and those who want to share their ideas.

It's not really much of a game. The team that's afraid of having their ideas stolen never seem to have any hits. They are so fearful, that they never show anyone their ideas.

When you don't toss out the ball and are afraid to play the game, you are out!

Do people really steal ideas? Probably. But not very often. In fact, I've never seen it happen.

Oh sure, I've heard people in the stands shout that their ideas were stolen, but I've never believed them. Usually, they are uninformed about how the industry works, what shows are in development, and think that every idea like theirs was stolen from them.

Playing here in Originality Field, you'll find that nothing is completely original. You don't believe me? I did a quick search in the bleachers for gothic humor kids shows. Think that sounds original? I found nine recent shows competing with each other that are all gothic humor kids shows. Did they steal the ideas from each other? Doubtful.

That's why in order to play in the big leagues, you have to sign your papers. Your submission release papers to be exact. Every network gets pitched similar ideas all the time. These papers protect them from lawsuits by the uninformed.

Timmy, of Timmy's Lessons In Nature, running the bases in a night game. Animation by Travis Blaise. © 2007, A&S Animation, Inc.

First up to bat are team "I'll Pitch To Anyone, Anywhere, Any Time." They have a much better chance of scoring. They tell their neighbors about their ideas. They tell people they meet at conferences, in meetings, in restaurants. They show their demos in festivals. They promote their ideas to the world.

These players' ideas are truly safe. That's right, safe.

It is much harder to steal an idea when everyone knows whose it is.

I manage an animated player that I'm really proud of, Timmy, from Timmy's Lessons In Nature. Timmy is a moron. He unwittingly demonstrates, with one disaster after another, the basic rules of nature. He's played in a few shorts and I tell everyone about him.

Do I worry that you are going to steal him from me? Of course not. Everyone knows he's mine. I've shown him to so many people, that no one could ever steal him from me.

Pitching your ideas and showing them to everyone is actually safer than keeping your ideas to yourself. When only a few people know about your idea, it's harder to prove that it's yours.

When Trey Parker and Matt Stone first produced their infamous short, The Spirit of Christmas, they didn't even put their names on it. A Fox exec gave the short to a few of his friends as holiday gifts. Everyone thought it was so funny, dubs were made and people started passing them around to all their friends. We even saw a low quality dub of it all the way in Florida.

Executive TV Pitch Program with Jeanne and Mark Simon.

It should have been easy for someone to steal the idea. It was hysterical. No one had their name on it. But it wasn't just the concept that everyone wanted. It was the brilliance behind the humor. And only the creators could do that. That's why a number of networks hunted down Parker and Stone and wanted to deal only with them.

Stop worrying about someone stealing your idea and get into the game.

The only way to hit a Hollywood Home Run, is to get up at bat.

Batter up?

Mark Simon is the co-founder of, He will be speaking at ComicCon 2007 on storyboarding. Read Mark and Jeanne Simon's free report on the 7 Biggest Show-Pitching Mistakes, or get more information on how to pitch. Mark may be reached at