Script registration is all about protecting your work. Do people run around rampantly stealing each other’s screenplays? Probably not. Has it been known to happen? Yes. What can you do to protect yourself in case this happens? You can register your script with the WGA and/or the U.S. Copyright Office, which is a department of the Library of Congress. Let’s further investigate what it means to register your script.
Facts and Figures
- You can use WGA script registration as dated proof that you wrote your screenplay. You have to renew your script registration every 5 years.
- Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is also dated proof of your screenplay; however, it’s a little more powerful than WGA screenplay registration in that you need it if you’re going to go to court over something. For more details, this is a good article.
- You cannot copyright an idea. If someone steals your idea, you’re out of luck. But on a side note, it’s really common for people to have the same ideas at the same time. We’re all subjected to the same media, same ideas, same world experiences – it’s inevitable. So while you may feel completely original, someone somewhere far away, or 20 feet away, just might have the same idea for a story as you. What they don’t have is your unique voice. The way you tell the story is your own. Focus more on being the best writer you can be rather than being the most paranoid writer you can be.
Is registering your script necessary?
Yes and no. What a terrible answer. Your work is technically protected just by being written by you. It’s yours. Registration is used as a sort of hard proof.
The truth of the matter is that registration may not protect you even if someone steals your idea and writes it into their own screenplay. Again, you cannot copyright an idea, only a tangible piece of writing. If you need to prove a timeline of when your work was written, registering your work might be beneficial.
What if I have a writing partner?
If you have a writing partner, then it’s probably smart to register the script in both of your names in case your writing team splits up or in the happy event that your script picks up traction.
What if I only have money for one? Should I register my script with the WGA or the US Copyright Office?
If you’re going to choose between the two methods, probably go with the US Copyright Office over the WGA.
Remember if you have any major questions or concerns regarding this subject, consult with an entertainment attorney. To the best of my knowledge this is the most accurate account of the copyright climate, but I’m not a legal professional. It’s important to be aware of your options and what these options entail.