Got a Script? CYA. Copyright or Register? (CYA, CYA, CYA)

Wrote a Script. Welcome to Hollywood…. However, before you get off the Turnip Truck 1st CYA. CYA. CYA.

COPYRIGHT vs REGISTER

Here is an excellent article by an attorney, Larry Zerner Esq, that details the pros & cons of doing one or the other or… do both.

My opinion is… it is so cheap to (A) Copyright and to (B) Register. Why not do both. But as Mr Zerner says “Do the copyright first”

Copyright-3

And, please-please-please, I beg you, do not do what is called the “POORMAN’S COPYRIGHT”.

DUH: What is Poorman’s Copyright?

It’s what probably 90% of you have done. It is a wives tale.

You photocopy your script or treatment or whatever. You stick it in an envelope and you mail it to yourself.

Don’t do this. Don’t do this.

Why?

First it has NO MERIT in the court system.

Second if you have done it, you have created a false sense of security that you are protected and likely have not done the proper COPYRIGHT & WGA REGISTER.

“Poorman’s Copyright”, again, has no merit. Don’t Do it. Don’t Do it.

Now, what to do…

Copyright-4-Poorman

Wrote a Script. Welcome to Hollywood. However, 1st CYA…

Copyright vs Register

Here is an excellent article by an attorney, Larry Zerner Esq, that details the pros & cons of doing one or the other or… do both.

My opinion is it is so cheap to (A) Copyright and to (B) Register. Why not do both.

But as Mr Zerner says “Do the copyright first”

WGA REGISTRATION vs. COPYRIGHT REGISTRATION…

…For screenwriters who use the latest version of Final Draft ® to help write their script, one nifty feature is the ability to register the screenplay with the WGA-West Intellectual Property Online Registry with the touch of a button. Many (if not most) screenwriters register all of their scripts with the WGA Registry, and, believing that they have done all that is necessary to protect their script, they neglect to register the script with the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress (http://www.copyright.gov).

Imagine their surprise when someone steals their screenplay and they learn for the first time that, other than establishing a date of creation, the WGA registration gives them almost no benefits at all. In fact, relying solely on the WGA registration can prove extremely costly for the following reasons.

First, although copyright protection exists at the moment of creation, registration with the Copyright Office is required before a lawsuit can be brought. Because it can take up to six months from the time the application is mailed to the Copyright Office until the application is processed and returned, if the writer needs to immediately file a lawsuit (i.e., in order to enjoin the movie’s distribution), he must apply for an expedited registration, for which the Copyright Office charges an additional $580.

Second, if the writer registers the script with the Copyright Office only after the infringement has taken place, he will be barred from recovering attorneys fees or statutory damages in the lawsuit.

Third, if the script is registered prior to or within five years of its publication, the registration acts as prima facie proof of ownership of the script in the event of a trial. There is no such benefit from the WGA registration.

The only real advantage of the WGA registration is that, in the event of a lawsuit or a credit arbitration, the WGA will have an employee appear and testify concerning the date of the registration. But this is rarely an issue during litigation.

Therefore, if you are a screenwriter wondering whether to register with the WGA or the Copyright Office, the answer should be clear – always register your script with the Copyright Office, and, if you have the extra $10 or $20, register with the WGA as well. And if you have scripts in your drawer that you registered in the past with the WGA, but never bothered to register with the Copyright Office, now is the time to do so. Before the work is infringed.

WGA Registration Copyright Registration
Cost $10 WGA members $20 non-members $40
Duration of Protection 5 years, but renewable for additional 5 year terms If author is a natural person – author’s life plus 70 years; If author is a corporation, anonymous or pseudonymous, then 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.
Allows Immediate Access to Court? No Yes
Allows for Attorney’s Fees If Infringed? No Yes, if registered prior to infringement or within 90 days of publication
Allows for Statutory Damages If Infringed? No Yes, if registered prior to infringement or within 90 days of publication
Will Accept Submissions Over The Internet? Yes Yes
Acts as prima facie proof of ownership? No Yes
Will have employee appear in court to testify about date of submission? Yes

 

LARRY ZERNER ESQ’s ARTICLE: 

“WGA REGISTRATION vs. COPYRIGHT REGISTRATION…”

For screenwriters who use the latest version of Final Draft ® to help write their script, one nifty feature is the ability to register the screenplay with the WGA-West Intellectual Property Online Registry with the touch of a button. Many (if not most) screenwriters register all of their scripts with the WGA Registry, and, believing that they have done all that is necessary to protect their script, they neglect to register the script with the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress (http://www.copyright.gov).

Imagine their surprise when someone steals their screenplay and they learn for the first time that, other than establishing a date of creation, the WGA registration gives them almost no benefits at all. In fact, relying solely on the WGA registration can prove extremely costly for the following reasons.

First, although copyright protection exists at the moment of creation, registration with the Copyright Office is required before a lawsuit can be brought. Because it can take up to six months from the time the application is mailed to the Copyright Office until the application is processed and returned, if the writer needs to immediately file a lawsuit (i.e., in order to enjoin the movie’s distribution), he must apply for an expedited registration, for which the Copyright Office charges an additional $580.

Second, if the writer registers the script with the Copyright Office only after the infringement has taken place, he will be barred from recovering attorneys fees or statutory damages in the lawsuit.

Third, if the script is registered prior to or within five years of its publication, the registration acts as prima facie proof of ownership of the script in the event of a trial. There is no such benefit from the WGA registration.

The only real advantage of the WGA registration is that, in the event of a lawsuit or a credit arbitration, the WGA will have an employee appear and testify concerning the date of the registration. But this is rarely an issue during litigation.

Therefore, if you are a screenwriter wondering whether to register with the WGA or the Copyright Office, the answer should be clear – always register your script with the Copyright Office, and, if you have the extra $10 or $20, register with the WGA as well. And if you have scripts in your drawer that you registered in the past with the WGA, but never bothered to register with the Copyright Office, now is the time to do so. Before the work is infringed.

Copyright-3-WGA

WGA Registration Copyright Registration
Cost $10 WGA members $20 non-members $40
Duration of Protection 5 years, but renewable for additional 5 year terms If author is a natural person – author’s life plus 70 years; If author is a corporation, anonymous or pseudonymous, then 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter.
Allows Immediate Access to Court? No Yes
Allows for Attorney’s Fees If Infringed? No Yes, if registered prior to infringement or within 90 days of publication
Allows for Statutory Damages If Infringed? No Yes, if registered prior to infringement or within 90 days of publication
Will Accept Submissions Over The Internet? Yes Yes
Acts as prima facie proof of ownership? No Yes
Will have employee appear in court to testify about date of submission? Yes

 

COPYRIGHT vs REGISTER: Which to do?

(1) COPYRIGHT or REGISTER or (2) COPYRIGHT & REGISTER

Do #2.

Why? They are both so inexpensive to do there is absolutely no reason to not do both.

But, again, as Mr Zerner states, do the $40 Copyright first, then do the $10 WGA Register.

DSC_8143 FS-$89 (2)

Hello,

I’m Dov Simens and hopefully you will enjoy any one of my 3 practical & affordable Film Programs (Live, DVD or On-Demand)…

…www.WebFilmSchool.com

Happy Filmmaking,

 

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