where the writers are
Tougher Road Through the Courts for Writers

The recent story of Bay Area writer Joe Quirk who is suing Sony Pictures and others over copyright infringement contains a number of disheartening facts:

“Even at (a) time when the value of intellectual property is perhaps higher than ever, with local technology companies including Google and Apple spending billions of dollars on patents while the entertainment industry works frantically to stamp our piracy, it can be remarkably difficult for a lone creative professional like Mr. Quirk to protect his work.

“In the last 15 to 20 years, there have been virtually no success stories when it comes to plaintiffs suing major studios for copyright infringement,” said Aaron Moss, a Los Angeles intellectual-property lawyer who has represented writers in the past, but hasn’t taken such a case in a decade because of the slim chances of success.

"Another intellectual-property lawyer in Los Angeles, John Marder, agreed with Mr. Moss, saying, “The courts have made it very onerous” to win a copyright case.

"The seeming vulnerability of creative professionals like Mr. Quirk may be partly a cultural issue. Stephen Elliott, a prominent San Francisco novelist whose latest book was optioned by James Franco, said the creative-writing community in San Francisco, while vibrant, isn’t as commercial or business-savvy as that in New York or Los Angeles. This allows writers here to be more creative and original, Mr. Elliott said, but it also leaves most unprepared for Hollywood’s sharp-elbowed business culture. If his claims prove to be true, even once having had a big-time Hollywood agency representing him didn’t help Mr. Quirk in the end...

"If you’re a big company that can afford the legal horsepower, you can vigorously assert your own rights. If you are a starving artist, or novelist, or even an independent inventor, the legal system often offers little succor.

“It’s not the law that protects you,” Mr. Marder  said, recounting how a copyright case of his own recently gained new momentum when an anonymous source sent him documents that the studio had insisted did not exist. “It is like the Mafia. Those that have the juice, the power to punish people who don’t play along, get protected.”

Which is just the kind of situation a legal system is supposed to correct.”