The Screenwriters Guild of America (SGA) does not register or copyright literary works. We left that to the Library of Congress and the Writers Guild of America. The Screenwriters Guild of America is a proactive Guild for working, and aspiring Screenwriters. We are here to assist and guide Screenwriters with their careers. They left that to us.

Copyright protects creative work; it does not protect useful products (which are protected by the area of law known as patent) or identifying marks or symbols (which are protected by the area of law known as trademark). However, not all creative work qualifies: Copyright only protects creative works that are orginal works fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright does not protect ideas, it protects the expression of ideas (ie: your screenplay). To protect yourself during pitch meetings, always prepare a written treatment expressing the ideas you intend to pitch. Source: "The Writer Got Screwed" by Brooke A. Wharton.

Make sure you always copyright your work. Do not mail your script to yourself (the poor man's copyright) and expect to be protected. This is extremely foolish and offers very little, if any, protection in a court of law. Register your script with the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress and/or the Writers Guild of America. Fees for either service are only twenty dollars. If you're serious about your work, it makes good sense to register your script with both services.

The Library of Congress/U.S. Copgyright Office: Register your script with the U.S. Copyright Office by filing out a FORM PA and returning it with twenty ($20) and two (2) copies of your screenplay. Registering your copyright with the Library of Congress will serve to authenticate your claim to copyright should a dispute arise. Library of Congress copyright registration lasts your lifetime plus fify (50) years.

Writers Guild of America: Registration with the Writers Guild offers similar protection with respect specifically to claims of authorship and date of completion. A copy of your script and twenty ($20) will register your screenplay with the Writers Guild for ten (10) years. This registration is renewable for an additional ten years.
The WGA has two offices. One in Los Angeles know as the WGA West, and one in New York, WGA East. If you live east of the Mississippi river you should register with the New York office, and if you live west of the Mississippi you should register with the WGAw. The WGA provides immediate documentation if you hand carry your script to their offices. If you mail your registration, you will receive documentation in a week or less. They are very efficient. On the other hand, the last time we checked, the Library of Congress was taking around 26 weeks to document copyright registrations.

Does WGA registration take the place of copyright? No. Any questions regarding copyright should be directed to the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington, D.C. at 1-800-688-9889 or to an attorney specializing in that area of law.

Does registration with the Writers Guild protect titles? No.

Does registration help in determining writing credits? Generally, no. If there is a dispute as to authorship or sequencing of material by date, then registration may be relevant. Questions concerning the WGA credit determination procedures should be directed to the Credits department at (323) 782-4528.

The Writers Guild's Registration Service (or Intellectual Property Registry) registers over 30,000 pieces of literary material each year, and is available to members and non-members alike. Writers are invited to submit material to be archived by the Writers Guild to protect their work. For more information on this service, contact the Registration department at (323) 782-4500.

The WGA Registration Service has been set up to assist writers in establishing the completion dates of particular pieces of their literary property written for the fields of radio, theatrical and television motion pictures, video cassettes/discs and interactive media. Registration provides a dated record of the writer's claim to authorship of a particular literary material. If necessary a WGA employee may produce the material as evidence if legal or official Guild action is initiated. The Registration Office does not make comparisons of registration deposits, nor does it give legal opinions, advice or confer any statutory protections. Registration with the Guild does not protect titles.

2004 SGA - All Rights Reserved