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Old April 8th, 2007, 03:42 PM   #1
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Keeping the Script Safe

I am almost done writing the script for my next short film (about 20 minutes). Since there will be allot of people involved, should I consider registering my script with the U.S. copyright office?
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Old April 8th, 2007, 05:39 PM   #2
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No. You already own the copyright, since you wrote it, assuming, of course, that you did write it.
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Old April 8th, 2007, 06:10 PM   #3
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I am almost done writing the script for my next short film (about 20 minutes). Since there will be allot of people involved, should I consider registering my script with the U.S. copyright office?
One thing some writers do is to seal a copy of the script in an envelope in front of a notary and mail it to yourself registered mail, keeping it sealed once it arrives. Now you have positive documentation of the authenticity of your claim to authorship and the date of creation should someone try to steal it.
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Old April 8th, 2007, 06:32 PM   #4
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One thing some writers do is to seal a copy of the script in an envelope in front of a notary and mail it to yourself registered mail, keeping it sealed once it arrives. Now you have positive documentation of the authenticity of your claim to authorship and the date of creation should someone try to steal it.
There is very little a writer can do to protect themselves. That is just a fact of life. Mailing your script to your lawyer or lodging it with the WGA are good things to do but they aren't fool proof. You can't prove that you wrote a screenplay just because you mailed one to yourself, that only prooves that it was written by the date specified.

If I were you I'd concentrate on getting the job done rather than worrying about who's gonna rip you off.
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Old April 8th, 2007, 07:46 PM   #5
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I'm not going to register the copyright because its $45 now and I could use the money for making the movie. But I will register the movie when I get done with it.
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Old April 9th, 2007, 03:47 AM   #6
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If you make a SAG film I believe you have to pay for it to be copyrighted anyway.
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Old April 9th, 2007, 07:03 AM   #7
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Here are some usefull 'facts'.

You cannot copyright an 'idea'... only the tangible expression of one - IE a 'script' or 'treatment'.

You need not register your script with the copyright office, for it to be 'copywritten'. It is already copywritten once it is fixed in a tangible form of expression (IE: written down).

HOWEVER. If you wish to seek damages for intentional infringement in the future, having it copywritten will ease the process and allow for greater damage awards.

You can 'register' the script online with the WGA for twenty dollars. This is NOT a copyright registration, merely a depository for scripts which can come in handy when trying to prove prior ownership.

Mailing your script to yourself is useless in a court of law. Why? Because today, I will mail myself four empty clasp envelopes. Next year, I will go watch a blockbuster, then go home and type up a rough version of the script and 'seal' it in one of those envelopes... "Yay" I now have 'proof' that I mailed it to myself a year earlier. This is positive documentation only of the date of mailing for the enelope, not the contents. Save yourself the postage.

Read over the excellent faq on copyrights on this forum.
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Old April 9th, 2007, 05:13 PM   #8
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If I copyright the movie, does that mean I can prosecute intentional infringement? For example, if someone was to copy my movie, would that be illegal?
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Old April 9th, 2007, 05:43 PM   #9
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On the old mailing trick... someone at the post office told me once... seal it in front of the postal worker... then have them stamp all seals with the date stamp...

Not saying it will protect you... but it'll show that they didn't stamp an empty folder...

A writer friend and I were talking about the idea of someone stealing your script...

He said once in LA he was in this bar where industry people go... said some guy was in there pitching his script to a producer. The writer said he was afraid that the studios would steal his script.

The funny thing was that everyone in the bar heard his story... my friend said it was quite good... the only problem was that half the writers in the room could have gone home that night and wrote a movie based upon his pitch...

I've always heard they'll steal the idea more than the script... because they'll hire a writer they worked with to write your idea...

Kinda of depressing I know....
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Old April 9th, 2007, 06:05 PM   #10
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If I copyright the movie, does that mean I can prosecute intentional infringement? For example, if someone was to copy my movie, would that be illegal?
Nick,
You're just starting out in this business and you're already looking for people to sue?

In answer to your question, no you won't be able to prosecute anyone. Well, not unless you've got a thousand-bucks-an-hour intellectual copyright lawyer who's well versed in international law and even then you cant prove anything.

Just get on with making the film and have a little trust in people.
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Old April 9th, 2007, 06:34 PM   #11
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Nick,
Just get on with making the film and have a little trust in people.
I mean, really!
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Old April 9th, 2007, 08:10 PM   #12
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...He said once in LA he was in this bar where industry people go... said some guy was in there pitching his script to a producer. The writer said he was afraid that the studios would steal his script.

The funny thing was that everyone in the bar heard his story...
Years ago some of my co-workers went on a business trip to Beaverton, OR. After work they went to a local pub where they started grousing about the parent company not investing in any new ideas, or taking any risks. After a number of drinks, they got pretty loud, and started saying, "They should just do it!" It became the tagline of the evening. "Just Do It"

Nike headquarters are also in Beaverton. A few months later the "Just Do It" campaign started. My friends always wondered if their antics started it.
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Old April 10th, 2007, 07:52 AM   #13
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Sorry....

Am I missing something here??? It was my understanding that the point of mailing yourself a copy was that you would have a sealed and dated envelope to open in court or during a deposition to help prove your case. Certainly you would not open it when you got it in the mail the next day.

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Old April 10th, 2007, 07:59 AM   #14
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You misread. It was that you can mail empty, unsealed envelopes to yourself, then fill them with whatever you want and seal them.
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Old April 24th, 2007, 01:56 AM   #15
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Nick,

You should register it with the Writer's Guild. But the amount of ripping off that goes on is great overestimated. I promise you, that regardless of how original your script, there are at least 15 floating around with the same basic storyline - it's all in the execution. In the two years previous to The Full Monty being released, I read a half dozen screenplays about unemployed guys stripping for a living. Two of them had nearly identical custody battle subplots. If you've had a good idea, ten other people have as well. I"m sure everyone one of those writers suspected they'd been ripped off. A long ago acquaintance once wrote a script about a post-nuclear society where women could no longer conceive. Finally, one young woman was located who was pregnant and a man was hired to spririt her out of the country to a ship waiting shoreside to take her to a safer land. That screenplay, after much torture, became American Cyborg - a film so bad the LA Times pronounced the worst film of the year when it was released the first week in January. About the same time the film came out, PD James book, The Children Of Men was also released. Same story line.

Register your idea with the WGA and then let it go. You cannot worry about being ripped off. If someone you work with goes on to pen a screenplay that is produced and does $50m at the box office, then think about suing. Before then, don't sweat it at all.

Seriously.
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