There are two ways to protect your script, you can register it through Library of Congress Copyright office or the Writers Guild of America (WGA). If you want to legally protect your work, don’t rely on the “poorman’s copyright” by sending it to yourself in the mail.
There are some differences between registering with the WGA versus registering at the Library of Congress. Both processes are similar, you fill out some paperwork, submit a copy of the screenplay and you pay a fee. However registering your work with the WGA is not the same as registering it with the Copyright Office. To fully protect your screenplay, it should be registered at the Copyright office.
If you have to prove that someone stole your screen play you will need to prove ownership. Although copyright protection exists as soon as you start the creative process, in court you will need the registration with the Copyright Office before a lawsuit can be filed.
How to Protect Your Script – U.S. Copyright Registration
In this article we will discuss how you copyright your screenplay with the United States Copyright Office.
There are several ways to register your work with the Copyright Office. The fastest and cheapest way is by using the eCO online system. But you can also use CO form and the PA form.
The CO form allows you to fill in the Form CO online and then print the form and mail it out along with your $45 payment. The form has a barcode on it so the Copyright office can process it faster than the traditional paper PA form.
The PA form is the name of the form that is used to register a copyright of literary work AKA your screenplay. I am not sure why you would go this route, but if you do, make sure you use the right form (PA Form) because there are several different forms for different types of work.
Filing online through the eCO online system in my opinion is the preferred method. The advantages are:
- Lower filing fee of $35 for a basic claim versus $45 for the CO or PA forms.
- Faster processing time
- Online status tracking
- Seecure payment by credit or debit card, electronic check, or Copyright Office deposit account
- The ability to upload your screenplay directly into eCO as electronic files
The steps to protect your script by U.S. Copyright registration is fairly simple:
- Log on or create a new account at eCO website.
- Once you are logged in, Click “Register a New Claim” and Click “Start Registration”
- You will be guided through a series of pages to gather the necessary information for completing the online application. Online left side of the page there will be a progress table that helps through the process. There are also helpful links to answer any question you have along the way.
- Once the application is complete you will have a chance to review the information to verify it is correct.
- If everything is correct, click “ADD to Cart”
- To pay the registration fee Click the “Checkout” button to proceed to pay with credit card / ACH transfer or with a Deposit account.
- Once payment has been confirmed, print the confirmation receipt and Click “Continue” Button.
- To submit your work by clicking “Upload Deposit” to uploading the file to the database. You need to make sure you don’t have any pop up blocker enabled or the Electronic deposit Upload window will not open. Once the file has uploaded you will a confirmation email.
There are a variety of formats that you can upload including .pdf, .doc, .docx and .txt files. A full list of acceptable file types can be found here. The eCO system will time out after 60 minutes so make sure you have a good connection prior to starting your upload.
If you prefer to submit a hard copy of your screenplay you can print a shipping slip after your payment is confirmed.
Once your have registered your work you can log on and check the status of your copyright.