REGISTERING A SCRIPT
Registering your screenplay, treatment or stage play should be of utmost priority on your list of thing to do or ensure the Producers have done before you came into the picture. There are three ways of ensuring a legal paper trail of copyright coverage for your productions work.
UNITED STATES COPYRIGHT OFFICE
For a nominal fee of $35 (for online registration) the United States copyright office will register your musical work, dramatic work, script, pantomime, choreography, motion picture, or other audiovisual work. There are various steps to take in order to secure a US Copyright, but nothing that should take you more than a few hours to gather.
- US Copyright Office ~ The official link direct to screenplay info.
- Copyright Service UK ~ A service catering for UK works.
- Oppedahl & Larson LLP ~ This US firm offers some more information on copyrights.
- MPAA ~ Information on copyright enforcement around the world.
- Copyright Society of the USA ~ More information for you to read on this subject.
WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA
Registering over 55,000 documents per year, the WGA Registry is a great way to ensure a trail of legal evidence to ownership for about 80 years.
UNITED STATES POST OFFICE
As ONLY a stop-gap while you wait on official confirmation from either (both preferred) of the two above avenues, it is a wise idea to put a copy of your script, treatment or other documents in an envelope with a signed letter from you stating the work is yours with a date! The postmark on the package will be the official date showing that, basically, if you had the item and were able to mail it to yourself - then it is most likely actually yours. A tip is to send three copies, separately, so you have more than one to open to prove your case. As in, one to the studio, one to the judge and one back-up. Of course, when you get them back in the mail - do not open them!! Wait until you need to - and do it in front of a legal person.
ONLINE REGISTRATION and VAULTING
Special thanks to Jeffrey Poehlmann for the following suggestion.
Another method would be to register the document with one of the many online document vaulting services. These allow a time and date stamp service to note the originality of the document, in this case - your script. Do a web search for "online document vaulting" for a list of options.