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How To Get A Screenplay Copyrighted

Adam Scott

I've been fortunate enough to publish several screenplays over the years. In the beginning of my career, a copyright law that allowed for a period of one year after publication to publish your screenplay made sense, since it was easy to complete a screenplay, rewrite, and publish in a year.

Now, however, you will often find yourself rewriting your screenplay as you go along, and you will be reminded that it's okay to wait until a year has passed to make your debut. That's because your screenplay will have changed, and it will have changed as you've been working on it—which is part of the reason you're rewriting it.

It's often tempting to want to publish a screenplay as soon as you've written it—I was tempted by a great query letter for my first screenplay, for example. This "instant publishing" is not always the right way to go.

If you work on a screenplay for a year, and then think about publishing it in a year, you're actually publishing two drafts: your original draft and your latest draft. I've learned that waiting a year to publish a screenplay is a good idea, especially if you're working on it as a passion project.

One year later, many of the plot points and characters have changed as you've been working on your screenplay as a means of creating something original. In this way, publishing your screenplay with little or no editing can feel a little tacky to some.

For this reason, I recommend waiting a year to publish, especially if you're self-publishing.

This way, you'll be publishing only one draft, the latest draft of your screenplay. That means that the additional editing, revision, and polishing will be done after your manuscript has been published—which is very valuable.

Don't over-publishWoman reading a book

Another reason to wait to publish your screenplay is because it's easy to get a big distributor or agent to see a screenplay you've already written. Think about how many self-published authors sell thousands of copies of their novel before their second book comes out.

That's the reality of selling your book, and that's the reality of publishing your screenplay. You can and will get a distributor interested in your script before it's written, but it's not always worth it.

Your agent or a studio might be more interested in your finished screenplay than in the idea you've sold them in the past.

If you're going to self-publish a screenplay, think of this like publishing a book: it's more important to publish a high-quality, high-quality finished product than it is to publish something hastily.

How to get a screenplay copyrightedScreenplay

To get a copyright registered, a work must be registered for copyright under the International Confederation of the Phonographic Industry (ISCIP) copyright scheme. The ISCIP website maintains a complete index of who has registered what, and exactly where these documents can be located for free download.

To determine if your script qualifies for copyright protection under the ISCIP scheme, just download the index and compare your work’s language, scope, and subject matter to see if it qualifies.

However, if you have only watched one of the original, copyrighted works, you’re unlikely to be eligible for copyright protection under this scheme. Therefore, you may need to apply for a generic copyright under the US copyright laws.

For motion pictures and television broadcasts, you will have to register for a motion picture copyright at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) or National Broadcasting Company (NBC) or National Cable Television Association (NBCA) and get an account for subscription to the Motion Picture and Television Publicity Bureau (MPPPB) before submitting your script for copyright registration.

This agency maintains a complete index of registered copyrighted works on its website, and accepts entries under the copyright laws of the United States and many foreign countries. If your script doesn’t qualify for copyright protection under the ISCIP scheme, the only other option is to register for a broadcast copyright at the American Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

If you are submitting a screenplay to a theater production, however, you can use the US Copyright Act of 1976, which grants copyright protection to all “theatrical performances” and certain other specific works. This law states that all “performing artists” who meet the qualification for registration under the United States Copyright Act of 1976 (the text of which you can download at the US Copyright Office website) are eligible for copyright protection under federal copyright laws. This means that if you do not qualify for copyright protection under the ISCIP scheme, but you have performed your work in a theater production, you will be eligible for a copyright registration under the US Copyright Act of 1976.

Therefore, the only thing you have to do to obtain a copyright registration for your screenplay is to submit it to the US Copyright Office for registration. Alternatively, if your screenplay is submitted to a production company for film, television, or theater, you can claim your copyright for film, television, or theater productions under the US Copyright Act of 1976.

However, claiming a copyright under this act is more complicated than it sounds. Before you go through the entire procedure for applying for a copyright, you will need to be sure that your screenplay is actually eligible for copyright registration under the US Copyright Act of 1976.

You can check whether your work qualifies for copyright protection by finding out if your script is registered as a work-made-for-hire under the United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 17 (USC 17).

If you are writing a non-film or non-television work, you are more likely to qualify for copyright protection under the US Copyright Act of 1976. However, regardless of whether your work is eligible for copyright registration under the US Copyright Act of 1976, your copyright is not automatically protected under federal copyright law.

You must make a separate application for the protection of your work with the United States Copyright Office before you are eligible for copyright protection under the US Copyright Act of 1976.

In the US Copyright Office, you will need to fill out the registration form on the agency’s website, and then send the form in to the US Copyright Office. You will need to send the registration form along with the cost of your copies of your script to the New Media Registration Unit, Office of Intellectual Property, 270 N. F Street, Suite 1100, Arlington, VA 22209-1102.

This office is the contact office for New Media Copyright registration. The cost of your copy of your screenplay to the US Copyright Office will depend on the specific program and time period, but they range from $1.73 to $3.20 per copy.

Once your form and the necessary copies of your screenplay arrive at the office, they will be reviewed by the New Media Registration Unit and an administrative law judge will determine whether or not the submitted materials are eligible for copyright protection under federal law. If the judge determines that the submission materials are eligible for copyright registration under federal law, they will issue a formal Certificate of Registration.

Registering your screenplay with the US Copyright Office is the final step you will need to take in order to obtain copyright protection for your work. After you register your work with the US Copyright Office, you will be the copyright owner of all derivative works based on your screenplay.

However, copyright registration will not stop you from being sued in civil court if a work you are producing based on your copyrighted screenplay infringes another copyright. Therefore, before you can rely on your copyright registration to protect you, you must also seek protection under local law.

The protection of your copyright depends on whether or not the script you are producing is eligible for copyright registration under the US Copyright Act of 1976.

Conclusionglasses, book, phone

It's easy to publish a screenplay if you're writing for money. Of course, you want money when you write, and of course you want more money when you sell.

But the fact of the matter is that many scripts are written for reasons that have nothing to do with financial gain.

Some of the most amazing screenplays ever written weren't written for money at all. In fact, the screenplays for Gone with the Wind and Roman Holiday weren't written for money.

In both cases, the screenplays were sold to the producer for the money to make the film—and once those two films were released, those screenplays didn't sell many copies, and they were even torn up by people at the studio. They were published because they were sold to someone who loved the story.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't write for money. That would be foolish, since screenplays can be very lucrative. But it's important to do it because it's a career you love, not because you need the money.


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