Screenwriting: Should you register copyright your work?

Yes. As writers we begin to financially invest in our careers the moment we buy the correct software for screenwriting. Then we may even spend money on attending events, hiring consultants and books. So why cut back on something imperative as copyright especially if you believe, feel and know that your script is going to be the next blockbuster. Some writers choose the age old method of posting or emailing a copy of their work to themselves. This is all fine, but it won’t hurt to do that little extra and register your script with The Writers Guild or even better the US Copyright Office. The following article explains the benefits

There is an interesting story in Ken Rotcop’s ‘The Perfect Pitch’ about copyright infringement by a well known company in Hollywood who stole a story idea. They hired a writer to pen a complete script based on a pitch. From what I can remember, the project went into production and of course the lady who had pitched the story found out and decided to take legal action. She had her script registered and without doubt was able to prove ownership. To cut a long story short, the production company settled out of court paying her a sum of around $8 million which they could have quite easily avoided by purchasing the script for much less, not even having to go anywhere near the million range.

However, this type of thing rarely happens. The studios and big boys apparently have enough dosh to buy you, and your script. The small production companies with barely enough finance to finish off a movie, well I guess it wouldn’t really matter if they stole your idea because the chances are it probably won’t materialize onto the screen.
Nevertheless, it is still a wise move to copyright your work. $20 to $40 investment is a small price to pay for peace of mind. It’s also a good idea to keep a database on verbal pitches; who, when and what you pitched, along with supporting documents, email, letters and faxes. This could prove invaluable in case you needed to make a claim for copyright infringement, but it is also a great way of keeping a record of your activities to save you from duplicating your pitch or query letter to the same production company.

“All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy”. Spike Milligan