It feels like at least once a month there's a story about a production company or a studio behind a major hit film being sued by someone claiming "They stole my idea!" Case in point, just last week, a lawsuit against the makers of Avatar was thrown out.
The thing is that truly unique ideas are rare, and even then it's possible for multiple people to come up with the same "totally original" premise, especially if the idea is a reaction to something floating out in the ether.
Case in point, on June 21, I sent the following tweet: "Trying to get a meeting on the sequel, JOHN WILKES BOOTH: VAMPIRE-HUNTER HUNTER."*
Almost three months later, on September 17, comedian Patton Oswalt sent this tweet.
So did he rip me off? Of course not. We both were riffing on the same idea and we independently arrived at the same basic punchline.
I truly believe that this is what happens in 90% of the "they stole my idea!"cases. So don't take all these plagiarism suits as any kind of evidence that Hollywood is determined to steal your ideas.
*Yes, I'm aware that it would have been more grammatically correct to say "VAMPIRE HUNTER-HUNTER." I realized that almost immediately after sending the tweet, but got so many RTs immediately that I opted to just let it ride.