Stephanie writes: I wrote a MODERN FAMILY spec script and now all my friends want to read it, but I'm wary about sending it out. Is it normal to copyright a spec script? What's the process if not?
Aspiring writers generally don't really "copyright" scripts at the spec level, but you can register them with the WGA to protect yourself. The necessity of this is debatable, but some script fellowships/contests/etc actually require that scripts are registered for submission. When you write a script for a studio, the studio will copyright it.
That being said, know that ideas get stolen a lot less frequently than people think they get stolen. Other writers have their own ideas and probably don't need yours. Especially with a spec of a TV show, it's not like you created a big concept and world and characters... you only have an episodic plot to be worried about. Also, at this stage, if you're just sending to friends, you should be safe - provided you've picked good friends. :)
I suppose it's possible that ABC could air an episode of MODERN FAMILY in the future that's just like yours - but it's unlikely that that episode had anything to do with yours. If your spec idea "airs," you just have to be content that you were on the same wavelength as the writers and move on. It's more upsetting if you come up with an entire original idea and then someone else sells the same one, but people think of similar ideas all the time. It's just how the industry works, and even if there was some kind of idea theft involved, it's nearly impossible to prove it in court.