The Business of The Business: Let's Talk Copyrights!
Updated: Feb 12, 2021
Trust us, it's not hard. And you'll want to frame it :)
Welcome to the first installment of our new series here at The Lighthouse; The Business of the Business!!
This week, we are covering the very important but incredibly easy process of copyrighting your script! Copyrighting your script with the Library of Congress not only further legitimizes ownership of your work in a legal capacity, but it also gives you as the creator a little more peace of mind knowing that your script is recognized as yours on public record. My Mom framed my first one and it sits proudly over my desk; it’s exciting!
Here are a few common questions that have been presented by our clients (and us!) about Copyrights and how the whole process works.
As always, our Business of the Business blogs will be continually updated as any processes change! We like to keep things up to date and as accurate as possible. We'll keep you in the loop! :)
Do I have to file a copyright for my script?
Not necessarily. We highly recommend registering through the Library of Congress Copyright Office because it further legitimizes your work and offers more concrete protections for you as a creator. If someone steals your script, you cannot sue them for copyright infringement without demonstrating that you do in fact hold a copyright.
Why do I need a copyright for my script?
A few reasons! One, it demonstrates clear ownership of the work. While it doesn’t cover ideas or concepts, the script itself is protected.
Also if a network makes a move to buy your show, they will want to see that it has been documented on public record that you own the script. Networks and Production Companies need to see a clear “Chain of Title” which shows who owns the property and if that ownership has ever been transferred to anyone else.
Do I have to file it through the government site?
Yes! To file an official copyright in the United States you must file with the Library of Congress E-Copyright Website under the “Performing Arts” category. It is a relatively easy process through their online portal with step by step instructions to guide you. No matter the type of work you are filing (script, screenplay, lyrics, music, etc.) there is a copyright for everything!
Does the WGAW Registry count as a copyright?
NO. This is a common misconception. Registering your work the WGAW Registry is an absolutely fantastic step to take when handling the legal processes surrounding your script, but it DOES NOT take the place or hold the weight of a copyright issued through the Library of Congress. Both act as a form of legal documentation that can be presented as evidence of ownership in court, but the WGAW Registry is only documenting that you wrote the script. A Copyright covers that, PLUS ownership and rights for use regarding your work. Big, big difference. And while a copyright can stand on its own in court, a WGAW Registration cannot. Additionally, copyrights last for the entire length of the creator’s life plus 70 years and the WGAW Registry holds for about 5-10 years. Doesn’t hurt to do both! The more legal documentation you have to back you up, the better.
Is it too late to file my copyright?
Nope! You can file anytime (earlier is best). Just make sure you know your dates like when you started outlining, storyboarding and writing. Knowing those will help you big time when you start filling in your application.
How much does it cost to copyright a script?
Right now, $35-$55 bucks depending on the work.
What if my script changes?
That’s okay! Minor changes aren’t something to be concerned with, but you can update what is on file if the changes are bigger. Script changes are inevitable, just make sure you keep the original version close by and highlight where changes take place in case further review is needed. Hang on to every version of the script!
Yay! I filed! How long will it take to receive my copyright in the mail?
It can take up to 16 months for the Library of Congress to mail you your certificate, so hold on to that confirmation email! But know that the second you pay, you are good to go. It's officially headed to the registry and the date it is paid for is the date your copyright is filed. If there are any issues upon further review, the Copyright Office will let you know and give you guidance on what you need to do to correct it.
For more information and to copyright your work, visit the Library of Congress E-Portal at
To register your script with the WGAW Database, visit https://www.wgawregistry.org