Copyright is a commonly misunderstood term that gets thrown around a lot online. There are many, by the thousands, if not more, who post info that ‘s factually false. This makes it hard for a creative to navigate copyright.
To get this out of the way, here’s the first thing to understand about copyright.
YOU NEVER PAY FOR A COPYRIGHT. EVER.
Sorry for the caps. I just had to get that out of the way.
But, What is Copyright, Then?
Copyright is just the legal term for property, aka intellectual property. You created it, it’s your idea, your name on it, you own it. Your copy (screenplay, novel, painting, song, etc) is righted (recognized under the law) as your copyright.
Usually, the term copyright is only used for documentation, lawyers, and courts.
But Lily! Copyright protection!
That’s a myth, and in some cases, a scam. You can’t actually protect your copyright, as in, prevent anyone from stealing your ideas. There’s no legal way to do that.
However, if you’re sincerely concerned about theft, violation or infringement of your copyright, then the best thing to do is nothing. Don’t give your copyrighted material to anyone. Or, at the very least, only give your copyright to people/websites that you know and trust. Always do your research.
When Should I Date My Copyright?
As soon as possible.
Imagine the following scenario.
You write a screenplay. You love your original screenplay. Life throws some curveballs. You don’t get around to talking to a producer until five years after you finished your screenplay. You change the copyright date from 2018 to 2023.
Some Guy comes along and claims he came up with the idea for this screenplay in 2022, and he has the copyright date to prove it. You get sued, or, more realistically, the producer drops you like a hot potato because you have no way of proving that Some Guy is a liar.
It’s never too early to date your copyright.
I’m Confused! Why Do We Pay to Register a Copyright?
Chain of action. Create a paper trail to assure you own the copyright. Though, these days, a digital paper trail.
We don’t live in a world where every country follows the same laws. For distribution, especially American companies, a registration number is needed to establish legal permission to transfer your copyright for different uses.
Example: Screenplay > production > movie > upload to streaming websites.
In essence, a registered copyright is insurance. You get a car (copyright), you buy insurance (registration). No insurance, no one is going to drive your car.
Nah, the WGA Will Protect Me
No, no they won’t. The WGA is an association, a club, that doesn’t benefit everyone. WGA does not, cannot, legally register or protect anyone’s copyright. You can be a member if you want, pay all their fees, but you still have to register your copyright, at an extra cost.
Okay, fine. How Do I Register My Copyright?
The US Copyright Office is internationally recognized. It’s quick, easy, and cheaper if you register online. You’ll get a registration number within a couple of days. If you have a series under the same title, you can bulk register and save a few bucks.
Got more questions? Shoot me an email.