Screenwriting : WGA registration is not enough, apparently by Dave McCrea

Dave McCrea

WGA registration is not enough, apparently

I came across this article from a lawyer who argues here that the $20 registration with Writer's Guild is NOT sufficient protection and that a U.S. Copyright is definitely a requirement. I always assumed the WGA registration was good enough. Quote: "The consequences of failing to register with the copyright office can be tremendous." http://zernerlaw.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/it%E2%80%99s-time-for-the-writ...

IT'S TIME FOR THE WRITER'S GUILD TO SHUT DOWN THE WGA REGISTRY
IT'S TIME FOR THE WRITER'S GUILD TO SHUT DOWN THE WGA REGISTRY
Since 1927, the Writers Guild of America, West Registry has existed as a place where professional and aspiring screenwriters can deposit their scripts. It exists solely to document a provable date of…
Kamala Lane

Yeah the Library of Congress copyright is the only real protection.

William Martell

Just on a practical level, WGA reg only lasts five years, and then you have to do it again, and again and again and again. I have scripts that are older than some of the people here that still get reads! Copyright is less expensive because it lasts your lifetime plus (I think) 70 years.

James Chalker

I do the Library of congress. I never saw the need to also do WGA. There may be some people who benefit from it, but for writers like me that are still trying to sell their first spec script copyright is probably all you really need.

Niksa Maric

Okay, let me get this right. The Library of Congress is THE ONLY COPYRIGHT SERVICE IN THE WORLD? Is United States of America the only country in the world? Are we all U.S. citizens, I don't think so, it doesn't say UNITED STATES on my passport. Why is it so complicated to register any work with U.S. copyright service and why does it take 6 months to receive the proof of registration. The software for instant on-line registration can't possibly cost more than $1.000 or $2.000, and there's something else. Are you telling me that every peace of work is registered with Library of Congress copyright service? Let me give you a link to a website you can check. http://www.copyrightregistrationservice.com/register/ One of many signatory countries is also The United States of America, which means, if I register my work here, it's protected everywhere, including The United States. Larry Zerner is a good lawyer and if you read the entire article and comments as well a few things pop-up there. 1. When I work on a script, I will typically email myself a pdf of the work in progress at the end of each day. I do this as a backup, but would that be admissible in court? This was one of the questions there. Larry Zerner's answer was: I know of no legal precedent but in theory it could work. I do the same thing, day after day. If some deranged person sends threatening e-mails to the President of ANY COUNTRY or anybody, the same e-mail will be treated as EVIDENCE in court in ANY COUNTRY, keep this in mind. If that's evidence, so are my e-mails sent to me of from me. What if I make a video of myself, writing the specific script or song or poem, would that be considered as proof as well. The list can go on. I personally have nothing against Library of Congress copyright service but unless someone posts some real evidence of WGA USELESSNESS as it was described in this article, I'll stick with the WGA as many great writers do. Thank you for reading this NOVEL CHAPTER.

Rachel Miranda Jones

Niksa, copyright "exists from the moment a work is created"; however, a U.S. work must be registered with the Library of Congress Copyright Office in order to bring an infringement suit. I really don't think the W.G.A. version serves the same purpose. Other countries may have their own registration systems, or none at all (like mine); it just depends. As for emailing your work to yourself, the U.S. Copyright Office's FAQ has this to say: "The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.". Source: http://copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html

Niksa Maric

Okay, let's clear things even further. A U.S. WORK meaning what? Created in U. S. or created by U.S. citizens? I do know for a fact that some of the work registered with the Library of Congress was neither created on U.S. soil or by U.S. citizens. Emailing my work to myself is not intended to be a proof of ownership but it can sure prove it was done by me or anyone who use the same method. If you read the part about sending the threatening e-mails, I'm sure you'll see it's the same thing (In category of PROOF or evidence).

Rachel Miranda Jones

Alle, as I said on the thread in question- no such new laws exist. I double-checked by personal enquiry to both the U.S. Copyright Office and the Australian Copyright Council. I posted this on the thread. Why did you ignore this? Again: there is no new law and this has been confirmed to me by the relevant authorities. What you are saying has literally no basis in reality. Stop peddling misinformation. -If anyone is inclined to believe Alle, there's a simple way to check- ask directly, like I did.

Shari D. Frost

Great to know, Dave, I was under the same impression. Guess I better take care of that asap.

Kamala Lane

There's a wealth of searchable info on WGA reg v. LOC copyright. I've read so many articles/blog posts on it from credible folks. A copyright is the only prima facie proof of ownership that holds up in court. A WGA reg doesn't get you damages, either, last time I checked. I'm sure it has some benefits for writers who are already paid and represented, but for someone like me who is unrepped and submits to competitions and other opportunities, I only put up the cash for LOC.

Rachel Miranda Jones

Alle, you know what I think you've done? I think you've seen something that said "this is the law as of Jan 1 2014" and thought it meant "this is a new law passed on Jan 1 2014". But did you not notice the document you link to was published in 2011 anyway? And don't go on another of your famous novel-length rants at me, please. It won't change the facts. -Niksa, as far as I know it means a work created on U.S. soil, however I think anyone may need to register in order to bring a lawsuit in the U.S. Not sure about that- the information is just not clear. As for the other point- well, yes, I suppose you could use it as evidence, but in that case what use is the WGA registration at all?

Niksa Maric

Okay, fair enough but have you checked the link I posted http://www.copyrightregistrationservice.com/register/ basically it's the same thing since the United States is one of 162 signatory countries on their list.

Niksa Maric

I agree with you Rachel, so we have very unclear laws, rules and regulations which are impossible to understand since they look and sound like they were written in PEARL, each side claiming, things should be done the way they've suggested and let's not forget thousands of writers stock in NO MAN'S LAND. On the other hand, why do we need any proof of registration after all. Let's say, I post one of my scripts online and exclude the registration or copyrights from that script. Someone decides to take the script since there are no WGA or U.S. Copyright registration numbers and start the production, but this production company doesn't know I left out those numbers, do they? Shortly after, a bunch of lawyers slaps them with the lawsuit and provide them with all the registrations above. The company will claim the script is theirs but the registration says otherwise. We can all start guessing what if but the fact is, it's a risky business for anyone even to think about trying to pull something like this since it costs less to simply pay for the script and make a movie.

James Chalker

Niksa, that link strikes me as potentially scammy. I think you'd be better off registering it with the appropriate national authority.

Niksa Maric

What do you mean, potentially scammy? Based on what? It's no different from any other site I've come across.

James Chalker
  1. whenever I see a private entity taking money to perform government functions, I'm suspicious. 2. On the right side it carries a logo for the IPRO, suggesting it's part of some international organization, but the IPRO appears to be a bogus entity created by CRS. 3. I see no reason to waste anymore time with it and would suggest you don't either.
Dave McCrea

Yeah, that site is a bit off. There is no mention of any geographic location, even a country where they might have an office, or any human being's name. What nation is this supposed organization even incorporated or registered in? Buyer beware!

Niksa Maric

okay, I agree but I wasn't suggesting for anyone to do it or anything, for that I apologize.

Rachel Miranda Jones

Niksa, the deal with all those countries listed on that site is that they're signatories to the Berne Convention. so that much is correct. But one of the terms of that is that you have automatic copyright in anything you create, while on the other hand the individual countries might have their own systems of formal registration, so either way it's hard to see what function that site could perform. I notice it says it can register Australian copyright- yet there is no official way to do this at all!

CJ Walley

Buyer very beware using any third party copywriting service. I don't want to be a fear-monger, but I'd be combing small print to make sure you're not actually handing copyright over. It's a shame there isn't a simple answer for screenwriters wanting to protect there work. I was aware of the WGA/LOC issue but I'm glad Dave has raised the issue again, writers need to know.

Niksa Maric

Okay, to review all this we have to go back to beginning, to article that's started this discussion. The article is (If I'm not mistaken) four years old. What's changed since then? The WGA still stands, I don's see any BIG lawsuits regarding the theft of scripts published around, so where does that leave us? CJ Walley couldn't be more right by saying " It's a shame there isn't a simple answer for screenwriters wanting to protect there work." I went to www.copyright.gov and under International Copyright Treaties and Agreements as usual, bunch of acts, mostly from the past century, various Committees, still in sessions, explanations, mostly 4 or 5 sentences long but the end of it alway brings you back to beginning of that explanations.... all nine yards. To rise this question was a good thing. What I do know is; I will contact the Library of Congress, the WGA and every European agency I find and whatever answers I get I'll post it here. CJ is not a U.S. citizen, neither am I, so what... We can't register our work or someone simply won't let us. There has to be someone who did manage to register his script, novel, a song or 2, how did they do it?

Rachel Miranda Jones

Nothing has changed- the point is that it appears the WGA thing was never all that useful. Non- U.S. citizens can register if their country has a treaty with the U.S. Only you have to be sure it's the real U.S. Copyright Office and not a scam!

Niksa Maric

What kind of treaty, Copyright treaty? I'm not sure but I don't think there is such ACT, LAW or anything similar. Let's say you're right and country where I live has no such treaty signed with the U.S. What does that mean? I register script or other work with Library of Congress and it's MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN, not to mention it's OPEN SEASON on my work?

Niksa Maric

Okay, quick search on copyright.gov sit and it looks like under International treaties Croatia is listed same as Australia. It appears only 9 countries didn't sign this treaty.

Niksa Maric

Here's what I've managed to found so far regarding the Copyrights in case you're not a U.S. citizen. If your country does have signed WIPO Copyright Treaty, 185 out of 196 do have signed such treaty, then you have all the rights, just like any U.S. citizen since we are talking about U.S. Copyright Office. Basically, you're covered. This circle 92 document is 366 pages long, I'll have to read most of it myself because I did ask some similar questions in the past and the answer was always pretty much the same, Read this article, read that article, check with your country laws..... I'll try to get more relevant informations regarding Copyrights tomorrow but there's something else what you should prepare yourself for (In case you do sell your script to some producer, production company in U.S.) The Taxes. If your country doesn't have TAX TREATY signed (in this case with U.S.) then my friends your problems have just multiplied. There are several ways to remove this TAX obstacle (I know 4 ways, all legal) but that's not the issue of this topic for the moment.

Rachel Miranda Jones

Not again. The U.S. does not "make registration mandatory". Again, from the U.S. Copyright Office FAQ: "In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created.". This information has been confirmed to me to be up to date via personal enquiry, so don't go pretending there's some "new law" only you know about. For the last time, stop presenting yourself as some sort of legal expert. They're called "lawyers", Alle.

James Chalker

I think if you have a particular reason to fear copyright infringement, you should contact a copyright lawyer. Otherwise, copyright it with the relevant national authority and get back to writing/marketing.

Niksa Maric

I assure you James, I have no problem or fear with that or U,S, Copyright Office, it's MY LOCAL AUTHORITIES I don't trust.

Pj McIlvaine

Oh this is silly. Forget WGA. Register it with the LOC.

Ruby Kleinschmidt

At one time all you needed to do was take your work to a Notary. The only requirement was to sign and date each page, then the Notary signed the last page and stated he/she had witnessed you sign and date each page. This proves a date. Now the 'experts' are saying this is not enough.

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

Library of Congress registration is easy and $35. Do it

Niksa Maric

Okay, we have 3 opinions in very short period of time and we are no closer to a solution then we were before. Judith, why do you think it's necessary to do both WGA and Copyright office, either WGA or Copyright should be enough. PJ, what does LOC stands for, I have no idea. Ruby, a Notary. Why do I need that now, you do know they charge you by the page, so before you start writing, make sure you have $1.000 or $2.000 saved somewhere, just in case. The MAIN question remains, HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO REGISTER THE SAME SCRIPT? 3, 5, 10.... One should be enough, which one is it, it remains to be seen.

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

Just once with the Library of Congress. It lasts your lifetime, while WGA must be renewed every five years.

Pj McIlvaine

Library of Congress i.e. LOC.

Shari D. Frost

Patricia, when you say "just once" does that mean revisions are covered as well? Or do you need to protect each draft?

Niksa Maric

Sorry PJ, I know what it means but not everyone here does, most people here don't live in U.S. Patricia, the same dilemma again. Either LOC or WGA or either is good enough to protect your work?

Ruby Kleinschmidt

There is a Notary at my bank and I can uses his/her services for free.

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

Shari, good question about drafts. Following is what I found as somewhat of an answer. Your work is protected as soon as you write it, the question is registration to prove it is your work. http://info.legalzoom.com/revision-book-need-copyrighted-22343.html

Shari D. Frost

Thanks so much, Patricia!

Suzanna Regos

I have always registered my scripts with the copyright office, but now I am also writing TV shows and I am confused about whether I need to register the outline and/or every episode? I'd appreciate any input on that.

Jason Levy

I have heard the same thing. Thanks for sharing this Dave.

Sue Melanson

I used to work for an independent producer who said this.

Brenda LeGeral Gafford

I've registered most of my work with the copyright's office, but in a few cases I've only registered with the Writer's Guild of America , East. I was told that was enough protection; however, I guess it's best to register with both...Thanks for your information.

Nanette L. Baird

Computer data is submissable in a court of law- an excellet back up. Personally, I use Library of Congress to register my work- costs more-but it protects work for 60 years after death- protects my creative name as well as heirs. Intellectual property is a business asset- treat it accordingly.

Annette Stewart-Colon

Register with the Library of Congress. I strongly suggest it.

Robert Leslie Fallin

http://www.ithenticate.com/plagiarism-detection-blog/bid/52974/Plagiaris... Go for the criminal penalties. Copyrighting can be an expensive discouragement for novice writers. Not to mention, it hasn't stopped producers in the past. Irwin Allen clearly stole Ib Melchior's "Space Family Robinson" for "Lost in Space". "Twenty Million Miles to Earth" is clearly based on a, much better, short story by John W. Campbell ("The Thing").

Robert Evan Howard

Copyrighting at the Library of Congress is the only one that counts. Electronic filing is only $35.00. Plus they will walk you through the process, which is simple.

Robert Leslie Fallin

Really? Patenting and trademarking is about $350. Thanks, Robert. I will check that out.

Pierre Langenegger

We've been discussing this for years on one of my other sites. WGA registration is not worth the paper it's printed on as it does not protect you in a court of law. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office (LoC) is the only form of registration that will stand up in a court room.

Rachel Miranda Jones

Alle, if you are referring to me, I "ripped you apart” not for your opinion that WGA registration is of little use– but because of other statements you made which were factually incorrect, e.g. your completely imaginary “new laws” and your claims that the LOC’s own FAQ was incorrect in not reflecting them(!) Anyone who wishes to verify this has only to check the thread.

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