Screenwriting : Copyright by Roberto Dragonne

Roberto Dragonne

Copyright

Hello everyone, I just finished a pilot for a TV series. Is it recommendable to register it on the Library of Congress? Do you have other suggestions? Thank you!

Richard "RB" Botto

Most welcome, Roberto!

Jorge J Prieto

You heard it from RB, first .

Aray Brown

Just LOC. That's the only one that matters

Melinda Loomis

Out of curiosity, what does Library of Congress cover that WGA doesn't, and vice versa?

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

FYI CYA Do Both WGA is $25 to register and LOC is $35 on line.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Registering copyright gives you stronger legal standing should you need it in a court of law. Registering copyright with the Library of Congress offers far more protection than WGA.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Roberto- Beth is right! She may be tired from a busy NOVEMBER Writers Club, but she is right. I have (3) screenplays. ALL have LOC copyrights and it is easy. Takes 5 minutes on line. It's only $35. And you get a case # right away. They mail you a hard copy in a few months. I was born in Brooklyn CYA Man! CYA!!

Dan MaxXx

mail the script to yourself. $6 US registered postal.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Well, that mail-it-to-yourself tactic doesn't quite hold up as solid as an actual registered copyright. Sure, just by writing/creating the thing you own the copyright. Period. But again registering it gives you stronger legal standing should you ever need it. Just register the copyright, people. Do it. Move on. Share your work! Cheers!

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

Hey, Roberto.... That, 'mail the script to yourself' comment doesn't protect as well... don't do the archaic snail mail to yourself.... unless you want to, if it makes you feel better...but, please, also register the script with the LOC... if the script is ready and you're ready to shop it around... register it. It only takes a few moments.

Dan Guardino

The snail mail script to yourself will not work in court because you can mail an unsealed envelope to yourself that would be postmarked.

Roberto Dragonne

Wow! Great comments and suggestions. Thank you all.

Richard "RB" Botto

Another example of why this community rocks.

Desiree Middleton

I copyright every script, including my shorts.

Aray Brown

Richard rocks

Aray Brown

No. you need physical proof. documentation.

Dan Guardino

Claude, Aray said you need admissible evidence and the best would be registering with the LOC.

Beth Fox Heisinger

You can't copyright an idea, only your specific written execution. So, yes, you can protect your work. Yes, you can do something. But I really don't care to feed into paranoia. My point of registering is really one of the practicalities of being prepared—should you ever need stronger legal standing. However more than likely you never will. "Borrowing" means you take an element and give it your own specific creative take, thus making it different, new. You can't copyright a color or lighting effect or even a title. Creatives are influenced by everything around them. We all are. It's part of what we do. :)

Dan Guardino

When it comes to copyright it seems most screenwriters seem to think you only need it if you want to sue someone. FWIW it is also used as a defense if someone accuses you of stealing their screenplay. Most Producers are pretty conservative and will want to make sure that a screenwriter has a clear chain of title to a script before they will invest in it. So if a screenwriter wants to save $35 and not register their screenplay that is fine but they will probably have a difficult time finding a producer that would option or buy their screenplay.

Dan Guardino

@ Claude. The Library of Congress (LOC) is a branch of the United States Government and is not trying to make money so they aren't ripping people off.

Dan Guardino

Claude. The reason I say you will have a difficult time optioning your screenplays if they aren’t registered is because a producer is going to want to have proof when it was written in case someone with something similar decides to sue them. You might find someone that's interested in reading the first ten pages but most producers will request the entire screenplay. If you find a producer that requests one of your screenplays they aren’t going to sign a form that you send them. In fact, they will send you a form to sign saying you won’t sue them and if you don’t sign their form they won’t want to read your screenplay. Selling a van is a lot different than a screenplay that someone is going to invest millions of dollars to turn into a film. I am offering some good advice so you can take it or leave it. I am sure you will leave it... Good luck either way!

Pete Haase

It's been awhile since a post in this thread, but want to make absolutely sure: if I have a t.v./web show with a specific title in mind, registering a treatment for instance for that show wouldn't protect the title, as I understand it. Registering with the LOC would only protect IP such as original dialog and stories. So a show about used shoes for instance called, Stinky Feet, I would not be able to protect that name/title? Especially because it's a common phrase, not a specific trademarked brand?

At some point there is a mechanism that ensures, American Idol, for instance can't be used by any other media company or any entity seeking profits - what is that mechanism? Effectively, American Idol is protected from anyone else starting a show titled the same.

Bill Costantini

Pete,

You can't copyright a title for a piece of work, but you can trademark a title, and especially a unique combination of words that isn't too generic or common. Like, if you tried to trademark "Pete's Auto Repair", you'd probably get rejected. But try naming a bar Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and I'm sure you will be hearing from Ms. Rowling's attorneys. The owners of the American Idol trademarks have sued a lot of people, too - from strippers to bar owners. Stinky Feet also has many live trademarks. You can do a trademark search on the government website to see what has been approved and has live trademarks.

You should always register your work with the LOC first, and then the WGA. The WGA protection only lasts for five or six years, and the LOC protection lasts for your lifetime plus 70 years. It's my understanding that, in the case of ownership decision-making, arbitrations and disputes within the WGA membership, the WGA filing is preferred. In cases that don't involve WGA members, the LOC filing is preferred. And of course there is the fact that you "own" something once you have created it, and can prove it, and don't need to file for protection. I'd still file for both, though, just to be extra safe.

Best fortunes to you in your creative endeavors, Pete!

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