View Full Version : copyright and changes

05-14-2005, 11:58 PM
I was wondering...

Before sending my script in for coverage I had it copyrighted. Now that I've got the feedback, I've completely changed the ending and made other modifications.

Does the copyright still apply?
Or do I have to re-register the 'new' version?


05-16-2005, 02:37 PM

Get a copy of Brooke Wharton's "The Writer Got Screwed (A Guide to the Legal and Business Practices of Writing for the Entertainment Industry) or drop a line to Brooke Wharton at www.writingforfilm.com (http://www.writingforfilm.com/) (new website I just found-everything about writing for the entertainment industry, biz and legal questions). Wharton has a really good section on copyright in her book. I'm not an expert on this, but reading her book, it looks like the short answer MIGHT be that a revised version of your screenplay might be considered another exploitation of the copyright in your screenplay--which you already have, so you might not need to re-register. BTW, in "The Writer Got Screwed," Wharton states that copyright exists in the moment the work is in a tangible form, but for a lot of good reasons, does suggest registering with the copyright office.

English Dave
05-16-2005, 03:01 PM
Out of interest, does anyone know how many non-produced, non-repped writers have sucesssfully sued a prodco or studio on the basis they had a wga registered script? Emphasis on non-repped in screenwriting - not comic books.

If anyone is so morally bankrupt that they have to steal your idea they are also probably so financially bankrupt that they couldn't pay you if they you sued them anyway.

Do you buy your car from the main dealer or the guy with the cell phone number in the free ads? Think about who you submit to, then you don't have to sweat copywrite.

05-16-2005, 10:37 PM
I'll have to pick up a copy of Brooke Wharton's book.

As I was going through the re-writes I found myself wondering if any number of changes to a given work would constitute the need to re-copyright.

Chalk it up to random thoughts.


05-17-2005, 01:47 AM
Since you have already registered a copyright of your work, (with the U.S. Copyright Office, I'll guess), you've established what exactly is protected by that copyright certificate: the deposit copies that you sent to the Copyright Office.

Now, depending on the number of changes you make to the screenplay, any further copyright will be considered a derivative work, (for example, if you change Act Three completely and keep two-thirds of Acts One and Two, you still have a third of the material from your copyright-registered work). You do not need to register a copyright for this work, (again). You can register another copyright for the "new material" as a "derivative" work with another PA form and fee. Registering the revised work with the WGA may be easier and cheaper, to protect yourself in submitting your screenplay to various contests and markets; then, when you're getting ready to sell that screenplay, you can register the derivative work and assign both copyrights, (original and derivative works), to the buyer.

Check out Circular 14 from the U.S. Copyright Office, (available as a .pdf file (http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ14.pdf)). Please note how to identify the original work, ("pre-existing material" in space 6a), and "new material added," (in space 6b), in the application form.