Copyright Registration


(Carlo Delmar) #1

At what point in the filmmaking process do you register the copyright for your movie, web series, or script with the U.S. Copyright Office (or equivalent government department in your country if you live outside the USA)?

At what point in the filmmaking process do you register your script with the Writers Guild of America East or Writers Guild of America West (or equivalent writers union in your country if you live outside the USA)?


(Bri Castellini) #2

I think the copyright is automatically given to whomever releases the project (completed/in progress, not script) or whomever emails a version of the script to themselves or someone else, because both of those are time-stamped and obviously credited to the creator. Contracts from production clarify ownership further but those don’t have to be registered or a matter of public record. Registering a copyright in a lot of cases is a formality, but fair use wouldn’t be a thing if copyright wasn’t assumed if you literally release the content. You make it, you prove it, you own it, I’m pretty sure.

From this link:

Many artists and writers fret over copyright and intellectual property laws without realizing that a work is essentially copyrighted as soon as it’s created. When a work is created, it doesn’t need to be registered with the U.S. copyright to qualify for copyright protection (though that will strengthen the protection a work can receive). It just has to be “fixed” in a tangible medium of creative expression.

A work becomes fixed under copyright law when it’s put down in a tangible, perceptible form like paper, film, audio tape or email message. Unrecorded speeches, live performances and live TV broadcasts that are not simultaneously recorded wouldn’t be protected because they’re not considered fixed, but a manuscript typed up and sent to an email address or a song recorded electronically would be fixed.

I’ve only registered two scripts with the WGA, both times to submit full length pilots to contests or fellowships, but otherwise I haven’t bothered. I guess in that case, I would register with WGA if I was submitting the script to anyone/anywhere that I didn’t know personally, just to cover my ass.


(Bri Castellini) #3

@hermdelica @movieguyjon @ghettonerdgirl?


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #4

I copyrighted my Season 1 as a video collection.I plan on doing the same for Season 2 once it’s complete. That way you only have to pay one fee per season. I registered here.

https://www.copyright.gov/


(Herman Wang) #5

I’ve never copyrighted a script, because for me the episodes are the finished product. In Canada copyright is automatic upon creation, so essentially once we publish on the Internet and have a copyright notice in our credits, it’s pretty much done.


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #6

Do you include a symbol or a message in your credits to show copyright?


(Bri Castellini) #7

Yeah that’s usually the case with the US too. I register pilot scripts (or have done so) explicitly because I was submitting them to be judged by industry folk who required me to register them, and because it’s a thing sometimes where someone will read an unregistered pilot and take the idea and the original writer has less proof of having submitted it or coming up with the idea first. But with email, it can be pretty easy to prove, so maybe that’s changing?


(Herman Wang) #8

As far as I know, you need:

  • the C-circle symbol
  • the year
  • the owner’s name

(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #9

Thanks for the info!


(Bri Castellini) #10

But even without that, in general, uploading your thing is proof of the copyright. Plus any behind the scenes contracts that clarify ownership amongst cast and crew.


(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #11

Yes, I’ve done that too as a requirement for script competitions.


(Carlo Delmar) #12

Additional legal resources are this set of articles on the Nolo website and the book The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers.


(Kevin Longa) #13

I’ve added this message at the end of the credits of some episodes of TASTE that have been screened at film festivals (just in case the screener video file falls in the wrong hands).

All Rights Reserved. Kevin Longa is the author of this documentary series for the purpose of copyright and other laws. Ownership of this documentary series is protected by copyright and other applicable laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any unauthorized duplication, distribution, or exhibition of this documentary series (including soundtrack) is prohibited and could result in criminal prosecution as well as civil liability.

You can use this message and just swap “Kevin Longa” with your own name and documentary series with “webseries,” “episode,” etc.

Back in high school I used to register work with the Library of Congress/US government, but like other people have said, it’s more of a formality. So I’ve stopped doing that. Not that I’m against registering, it’s just that it can often be an unneeded step - especially when we’re publicly publishing our content online.


(William E. Spear) #14

Formal copyright submission with the United States Copyright Office is akin a scorecard. Registration fixes a name and a date - the first marks on the scorecard - but is not immune to challenges.