My younger brother once told me of an idea he had with a friend of his. They drew up a concept and decided that their idea would be huge. That friend ended up moving to Japan. A couple of years later, the Playstation 2 hits stores. My brother remains convinced that this friend or someone in Japan pinched his idea. The verdict is still out.
In the Biz, everyone has a great idea. Whether your idea will be the next Star Wars or the next Seven Samurai, you need to protect it. Unfortunately, there are too many dishonest people in the world, and many of them work in the Industry.
Ideas are worth more than gold. Saying that, you need to secure it like you would secure your own home: cautiously. Better safe than sorry. Fortunately, the law will be on your side, that is, if you protect yourself beforehand.
There are two main ways to secure your story idea:
1.) Get a copyright.
2.) Get it registered with WGA.
Ideally, you'll want to do both. But keep in mind: both cost money. About $20 for WGA registration and about $30 for the copyright. But it will definitely give you peace of mind, especially when you start to tell others about your idea.
When you get ready to tell others about your idea, please be careful who you pitch to. It doesn't matter if the person claims to be an agent, a manager, or the head of a production company. Do your research on the person you pitch to before pitching. And go with your gut. If the person seems like a weasel, he probably is.
About a decade back, my father started to write songs as a side gig. He heard about this thing called "the poor man's copyright" and decided to put his trust in that. Trust me when I say this: the so-called "poor man's copyright" will not hold up in court, if so happens someone does pinch your idea. One can easily post-date an envelope or flat and put their script, treatment, or lyrics inside after mailing it.
It is worth it to spend just $20 than to lose your idea to someone else who has better connections. If you don't, you could end up like my brother, pouting at his "idea" from the consumer side.