View Full Version : When do you copyright? Or Register?

12-20-2004, 07:43 PM
Hello! I have been a lurker off and on for a year or two now. I love the wealth of information in these message boards. :)

I just finished the "final" (LOL) draft of my script. An earlier draft of it is registered with the WGA, but I am uncertain of when to copyright it.

I am looking for a script analyst (several posts here have been very helpful in that regard), and I anticipate making changes to my script after I receive feedback on it.

Should I wait until after that process to copyright it? Should I copyright it now? What happens if I copyright it now and end up making significant changes to it?

I know you can register different drafts with the WGA, is this common practice? How often do you register? Should you only register a script a second time if you've made significant changes? Is this necessary?

Thank you!


12-20-2004, 08:50 PM
If you have already registered it with the wga you have covered yourself. Unless you make significant changes to the story (and to the title) you won't have to register it again. If you want to send it to the Library of Congres as well just for kicks, do it now.

12-20-2004, 11:53 PM
Copyright it. It's more important than any WGA registration.

12-21-2004, 01:41 PM
You send it to the WGA "just for kicks" and the only thing it covers is overheads. Perhaps I'm just ignorant but I'm not really sure how locking a script up in the WGA registry helps, at least not if you want to be able to demonstrate date of completion without going to the trouble of having an envelope unsealed before a judge.... If you register it with the LOC you can request a photocopy of the material you deposited for copyright registration anytime. Along with your copyright certificate you have proof of copyright ownership that you can show to as many people as you like without compromising the registration. On the other hand, for the 'time stamp' to continue to have any validity, calling a script in from WGA registration is a hold card that can only be played if it is going to become a matter of legal record, by which time someone is probably chalking up the billable hours. Maybe I'm missing something. I still register with the WGA online anyway. $10, what the hell.

12-22-2004, 12:45 AM
FYI - when it comes to theft in Hollywood, the battle is less about proving the material belongs to you and more about being able to create a paper trail to the person who stole it from you. What the bad guys do is take what they like from your idea and change the rest, figuring they're improving it anyway.

WGA registration and copyrights are of course important, but more important imho is documenting who receives your script and when.

Theft does happen, but in my experience it's not as common as most people think, the reason being that nothing kills a deal faster than potential litigation.

12-22-2004, 08:06 AM
Absolutely, at the end of the day it is (hopefully) pretty academic. Not sure if you could use WGA registration to demonstrate anything *before* litigating was what I was wondering. Once a writer sues an otherwise 'legit' producer they have probably already lost. Unlike LOC it would frustrate informal discussions, for the grand opening you would need at least a couple of a lawyers on hand and a WGA suit with a letter knife (?), all a bit absurd really.

12-22-2004, 02:42 PM
Thank you very much for the insights. :) They are much appreciated.

Doc Pruyne
01-03-2005, 01:32 PM
Send the script to the LOC before sending it anywhere else, even if it's rough. Even if you end up changing the title.

The WGA is a waste of money (in my opinion) because it does not create evidence that will establish ownership to an unassailable degree in a court of law. Ditto with sending out your script in the mail, addressed to yourself. Those methods for creating a paper trail do not stand up in court. LOC registration is the only method that succeeds in documenting ownership from a specific date onward.

Note: You can always re-register the same work, with a note on the application that it's based on a previously registered work. There's a question that asks if that's the case, suggesting to me that the LOC administrators know artists change and endlessly rewrite.

Note also: Use short form PA, it takes about five minutes, so what's the point of doing it for the WGA too?

01-05-2005, 12:11 PM
I think that the LOC provides very specific rules for financial compensation if someone plagiarizes you too, which is an added bonus. The minimum is something like $150k (thats what someone told me anyway...)

the other thing is the WGA only provides proof of registration to the author....

01-06-2005, 04:58 PM
"Those methods for creating a paper trail do not stand up in court. LOC registration is the only method that succeeds in documenting ownership from a specific date onward."

It's probably a good idea to save postal receipts, etc. Because even with LOC registration, you still have to prove that the person who allegedly plagarized your work even recieved it.

Most of these lawsuits are unsuccessful.