Technical Snafu Destroys Screenplay Site, Loses Scripts Forever, Lawsuits Likely: Another Small Business Cautionary Tale.

Update: There is an interview with the present owner of posted here. Hat tip to Pang-Ni Landrum for the heads up.

As a former indie film producer and screenwriter (and tech geek, too!), I have immersed myself in the software and web sites that cater to filmmakers and content creators. I have been of the belief that entrepreneurs who create platforms for dream-realizing are more likely to make money than the dreamers themselves. Case in point: Indiegogo, Withoutabox, and Scripped. I don't know how much money Scripped made, but it was purchased at some point by another company, one that made business-ending mistakes. closed this week, and they botched the aftermath so bad that they issued a follow-up email to try to assuage the users of their service. My guess is that lawsuits are imminent, because, if you stored screenplays you were crafting on their site, well, sorry, you are out of luck. Your screenplays and notes are gone. And writers perceive value in their intellectual property. Go figure.

This was the email sent from Scripped yesterday, April 2nd, 2015:

Oops. I hope you weren't working on any screenplays at Astonishingly, "a simultaneous malfunction in... backup services and primary servers" caused the disappearance of all screenplays and notes.

Lesson #1 for small businesses: build in redundancies and fail-safes. If the primary function of your business is to provide a completely digital platform for writers and filmmakers, you need to do everything in your power to protect the content of your clients. Scripped, you neededto have more redundancies and protections than you did! Small businesses should know how important it is to protect their clients. Wedding photographers may build protections into contracts that limit liability for the catastrophic loss of photos, but it is the negligent photographer who doesn't find 10 different ways to capture, store, and preserve images of such importance to the client. App developers who dream of mass adoption of their mobile phone services must not go live without implementing an adequate number of fail-safes.

What is more galling is that the Scripped people claim they are "honoring" their users by partnering with WriterDuet, "the industry's most powerful screenwriting software." I don't have the statistics that would compare WriterDuet to Movie Magic Screenwriter or Final Draft, but these people at Scripped have no business discussing the quality of anyone else's software. Nor should they be hawking the wares of another company. In August, 2008, Scripped hitched its star to the publisher of the excellent screenwriting software, "Movie Magic Screenwriter," announcing:

LOS ANGELES--Scripped, a new provider of Web-based screenwriting software and services based in Los Angeles, and Write Brothers® Inc., a Glendale-based publisher of the award-winning screenwriting software, Movie Magic® Screenwriter, today announced a strategic technology and marketing partnership that will change the way that screenplays are written and submitted to Hollywood. and Write Brothers® will partner to provide aspiring writers both an online and an offline solution for their screenwriting software needs. Additionally, the two companies will leverage existing partnerships to help screenwriters take their works from concept to completion.

Lesson #2 for small businesses: show loyalty and take the word "partnership" seriously. A partnership is supposed to be mutually beneficial. A business enterprise that is a true partner is one in which each partner shoulders the responsibility and liabilities of the other partner(s). Be careful who you partner with. You have a reciprocal relationship and while you may find partnerships mutually beneficial, they can become mutually detrimental in times of trouble. Scripped was a bad partner to have.

The response to Scripped's kiss-off letter must not have gone well, because this morning they sent this email:

Lesson #3 for small businesses: know when to cut corners and when not to. Hollywood and Big Tech get a bad rap for many reasons, but small businesses cannot and do not get a pass for screwing up. It appears from this email that corners were cut by the entity that bought the Scripped brand from a previous entity that did not cut corners. Or maybe the prior entity was just lucky. That's the problem with cutting corners: those cutting corners have an incentive to mentally minimize risk, and convince themselves the risk was worth it when things don't go wrong for years. Luckily, this was just about screenplays. Corner-cutting can often be about life and death. An independent film director was just sentenced to prison for his role in the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones, who was killed by a train trying to set up a shot for an indie biopic about Greg Allman. Hollywood and Silicon Valley have had their share of catastrophe and tragedy due to corner-cutting, but they have something that startups and indies do not: piles of money to properly create redundancies, properly hire and manage employees, and purchase insurance to protect the company from errors and omissions. And they have lawyers. The job of a business lawyer is first to protect a company and its principals from liability. That means advising the client when the risk is just too great.

I signed up with Scripped five years ago and really didn't take full advantage of the service the site offered. This was my welcome letter:

As mentioned casually in the introductory letter, writers used Scripped to write, protect, and promote their scripts. Screenwriters who took them at their word are justified in their outrage and sense of betrayal.

Related: How to Start Up an Independent Film Production Company (or Have Your Lawyer Do It)