ALTernative Facts: Just Cos and Protecting Your I


Probable Cos

Bill Cosby’s excessive misuse of his pudding pop finally caught up with him, as the celeb who defined Father Figure for many kids of the ‘80s was found guilty of Very Bad Role Modeling, Disappointing a Generation, and Aggravated Indecent Assault (as opposed to decent aggravated assault? Thank you, legal system, for adding words whenever possible, unnecessary and not needed or redundant.)

The Cos was found guilty of assaulting Temple basketball player and student Andrea Constand. With more than 50 complaints filed against him, this is the only one that was still within the statute of limitations, and thus the only one to go to court (twice now, and expect appeals). But this guilty verdict will probably result in jail time, possibly as much as 30 years. Now if only they could add some time for “Fat Albert.”

Double-Duff-Proofing Your Big Idea

When this ALT Facts writer was young, he and the neighborhood kids came up with a secret-mad-scientist-in-a-military base explanation for what turned out to be a power relay station in our neighborhood. Our stories included monsters, other dimensions and missing kids — and this all happened in the ’80s (when kids were kids and Cosby was still one of the good guys). Do those plot elements sound familiar, “Stranger Things” fans? Yet we have not sued the Duffer Brothers, co-creators of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” even though we’re pretty sure we dreamed about meeting them after seeing their “Wayward Pines.”

In the history of ideas, there is a significant amount of parallelism. Where would math and physics be without Issac Newton? No calculus and no gravity? Actually, we’d be exactly where we are — Gottfried Leibniz came up with calculus, and a few different people were developing principles of gravity. Newton was smart, but his success was really in out-PRing the rest. For most major steps forward there are similar stories, from the steam engine (say Watt?) to the Wright Brothers to the lightbulb.

Similarly, creative exploits often overlap, whether you’re considering artistic movements or the less artistic productions of Hollywood. Guided by memes, fate, the collective unconscious or whatever you believe in (I favor invisible crickets that whisper creative ideas with strong south American accents), it’s why we end up with multiple volcano movies one year, multiple Troy movies the next and multiple slasher movies another (those might actually be copying each other — bad example).

In the case of “Stranger Things,” much of the claim by Charlie Kessler seems to lie in the name of his short film (about disappearing kids and a secret bunker) — Montauk, which was the original setting for and name of “Stranger Things” while the show was being developed. That sounds awfully suspicious. But as hardcore conspiracy theorists know, Montauk, New York, has long been the rumored site of government experiments in time-travel, interdimensional travel and the like. It doesn’t have the brand name recognition of Area 51, but it’s up there — it’s certainly reasonable to think both projects referenced those ubiquitous theories as inspiration.

So if you do have your own big idea, how can you protect it? First recognize that all ideas have an interchange and flow to them. Nothing you think up is totally from whole cloth, and all of us are drawing from the same well, language or shared culture. But, of course, idea theft does really happen, too. So if you’re in a pitch session, record the whole thing on your smart phone. Just about every conspiracy movie would end about five minutes in if their characters could just remember to use recording apps. It’s polite to let the other person know you’re recording — whether it’s legal to record without permission varies from state to state. There are other old standbys — mailing yourself a script you wrote and never opening the date-stamped envelope might work. Or not — we couldn’t find a lawyer who would vouch for it either way. Non-disclosure agreements have some legally binding aspects and are worth doing. If your idea becomes a script, novel or written piece, you can have it recognized and registered by the Writers’ Guild (East, in our case) for about $25. That will protect you if someone tries to use your exact wording, but ideas in the broadest sense are very hard to protect. So it’s ideal to make yourself the kind of person others want to work with — then they might be more interested in stealing you along with your idea! Finally, the method ALTFacts favors is simply to get the other party so drunk they can’t remember your idea even if they want to steal it (Warning: This practice can get you Cosbied if you’re not careful.).

In related news, Steven Spielberg is now suing both parties — and himself, as producer of Ready Player One — under the little known “Too Many Homages” statute.



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