Before I begin, I'm a software engineer, so am not especially in-the-know about what I'm seeking to do beyond the software side of things.

In brief: I would like to pitch an idea leveraging a novel software process to a potential client to purchase or license. What methods could I consider to protect that idea and process?

In detail: What I would like to do is to pitch a show to an online streaming video vendor, for example, Netflix.

Such a show's success would be predicated on the use of a particular software technology to help create the show. The idea would be to use the technology to bring a new spin to the show's concept, which is not a new one. The show's concept is not novel (but equally, not protected), however executing such a show using such technology would be novel, as best as I can tell from my research. I have thus-far not found prior art for such an idea executed with this technology. The use of the technology would be required for the show to exist in the configuration suggested in this proposal.

Elaborating, to create the show, a software suite would have to be prepared which would be bespoke for the show, and this would leverage some open source technologies and some licensed technologies to work. By this logic, such software could be said to be a crucial process by which the show would be produced, and I suppose such a software process could be said to be novel also, although the steps involved in the process would not be novel by themselves.

If I was to use a real world parallel that I think is similar, if you were to imagine that video editing software didn't exist, it would be pitching a show and a software package like Windows Movie Maker to make the show, and seeking to protect the idea of your movie maker software package as part of that pitch.

The merits of pitching such a show aside, what methods could I use to protect my ideas such that Netflix or other vendors can't just turn me down, hire a software team and pursue the concept on their own?

For legal reference, I reside in Australia, but would appreciate US and other perspectives all the same. Thanks for your time.

My research:

I've seen: How to protect an idea when you don't own the brand or the process? (UK) and it was not particularly reassuring, although I am asking as a novel software process is a little more sophisticated than logos on pint glasses, and am curious as to how more conventional shows get pitched to media companies without them running off with the ideas as that can be, I imagine in some cases, a risk.

I've also seen: https://law.stackexchange.com/a/11386/14997 and am curious as to which nominated methods of protection it would be worth directing me towards, if any. Based on the first answer here: Does copyrighted code protect intellectual property rights on novel algorithms it implements? I conclude that I'm not protected by copyright, I don't think.

1 Answer 1


Your answer (in the US) is the same as feetwet's answer to the earlier question you linked: Is it possible to protect a business idea? - Law Stack Exchange.

You can't copyright an idea for software. You can't copyright an idea for a pitch of a TV show or an episode of an existing TV show (Google "copyright TV series idea"). You can't copyright a combination of ideas for a TV show, i.e., one that uses software as the plot line or in the screenwriting or taping process.

Once you do the work - develop software or write a script - you have legal protection (which varies, depending on jurisdictions). You can copyright the software you have developed. You can copyright (or commonly register) the TV script you have written. Or, in the US and other jurisdictions, your work is copyrighted as soon as you produce it.

  • You can sometimes patent a business idea, although the standards that must be met to qualify for a patent have grown much more strict in recent years.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 21:22
  • Patents are roughly outlined in feetwet's answer, but for the OP here, copyright seemed to be the heart of the question. Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 21:51

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