Copyright protection exists as soon as you have created your work in a tangible form (except in case of works made for hire, then the employer - not the writer, is presumptively considered the author). Because your copyright in the work is immediate, it is not required that you secure copyright through any other action. Copyright registration is a legal formality that will make your copyright claim a matter of public record.
There are many advantages to registration of your copyright claim with the U.S. Copyright Office. Here a few of them:
- Your copyright claim becomes a matter of public record;
- Registration is necessary before an infringement suit may be filed in court;
- If you register your work within 3 months after publication or prior to an infringement, statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to you in court actions. Otherwise, you'll only be awarded actual damages and profits. All this, of course, would only happen if you successfully prove your copyright infringement claim.
REGISTRATION WITH THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.
To register your work online, go to the Library of Congress' Copyright Office at http://www.copyright.gov and click on the "Electronic Copyright Office" link.
The electronic filing fee is $35. You will use form PA or short form PA. For collaborative work, work made for hire, and work that has been previously published or registered, you will need to use form PA.
To mail in your registration, do the following:
Send these three things in the same package:
- A properly completed application form CO. The paper version of the Short Form PA and Form PA are being phased out and are no longer available unless requested by mail. The barcoded form CO has a much faster processing time.
- Filing fee for each application in the amount of $45.
- A copy of your script
You'll receive your proof of registration about 8 weeks later.
Note: Once I sent two scripts, two applications, and two checks in the same package. DON'T DO THIS. They lost one of my checks, so I sent another check, a copy of the script, another application, and a letter of explanation. Then things really got messy!
The Library of Congress ended up calling me and an investigator was assigned to straighten everything out. Once she took over, the matter was resolved within a day (and I was granted the original date of my first registration). But this whole process took about 7 months to resolve.
REGISTRATION THROUGH THE WGAw.
Registration is simple. Simply visit the website of the Writer's Guild of America, west at www.wga.org. Under the QUICK LINKS section, click on REGISTER YOUR SCRIPT, and you can upload a copy of your screenplay, treatment, pitch, or synopsis right there. The registration fee is $20 per registration, unless you are a guild member, then it's only $10. You will receive confirmation of your registration right away. You will need the SSN of all writers and you will be required to list all authors full legal names.
If you don't wish to register your work online, you can walk it in or mail it in.
To mail your material, do the following:
- Include cover sheet with title of material and list all author's full legal names.
- Provide Social Security Numbers, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of all writers.
- Include a check or money order for the registration fee of $20 (unless you're a member, then it's only $10)
- Mail one UNBOUND copy of the material to: WGAw Registration, 7000 West Third Street, L.A., CA 90048
For your benefit, you should register your script with the U.S. Copyright Office as well.
NOTICE OF COPYRIGHT.
Prior to March 1, 1989, notice of copyright was mandatory on all published works. Without such notice, there was risk that the copyright owner would lose copyright protection. Now, the use of the copyright notice is not required, but its use is highly recommended by the U.S. Copyright Office. Why?
- It informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the owner of the copyright, and the date.
- If the your work is infringed, and it carries proper notice, "innocent infringement" will be more difficult to claim on part of the defendant.
PROPER NOTICE contains three elements:
- The letter C in a circle, or the word "Copyright," or the abbreviation "Copr.";
- The year of first publication (see note on publication in About Copyright);
- The name of the owner of copyright.