Here’s an interesting story if you are as big a fan of Stephen King as I am. Stephen King has quietly filed notices that he intends to terminate the transfer of his licenses for the movies, The Dead Zone, Cujo, Creepshow, Children of the Corn, Cat’s Eye, and Firestarter. The termination notices were mailed on August 31, 2016, and will be effective as of September 1, 2018.
I will be moderating a great panel for the Beverly Hills Bar Association on the copyright termination case involving the Friday the 13th film. For those of you who know my past with the Friday the 13th series, this will be a terrific learning experience for lawyers on what they need to know about copyright panel. Also on the panel are Marc Toberoff, Michael Lovitz and Aaron Moss. It’s May 10 at noon at Lawry’s restaurant. Sign up and more information here http://bit.ly/2ohyqC8
If you file for a trademark with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”), you will probably be the target of this common scam. Don’t fall for it.
Scammers routinely monitor all new filings at the USPTO and will send out official-looking invoices which purport to be a charge for a trademark registration. They are typically from foreign countries, although not exclusively so.
I’ve copied one below so you can see what they look like.
These are nothing but scams. There is no real company called Trademark & Patent Publications and they are not offering you anything. They are simply trying to take your money. Another common scam is a letter that says that you need to file the identical trademark in China and they will do it for you for only $2500. Also a scam.
Anything that has to with your trademark will only come from the USPTO. Hopefully, when you filed your trademark, you gave permission for the Trademark Office to contact you by email. If the email address does not have a uspto.gov address, it’s not real.
You can also check the status of your trademark application online at any time by clicking this link which allows you to search by the name of the mark, serial number or owners name.
Once you find your application and click on it, you can check the status by clicking on the blue “TSDR” box at the top left. By clicking on the “Documents” tab, you will see all the documents that are associated with your application, filed by you or by the trademark examining attorney.
Good luck and thanks for reading.
Note: The Application Number and Mark were changed to protect my client’s privacy.
I just filed a lawsuit against Apple and Media Arts Lab for using my client’s voice in an iPhone commercial without his authorization. Here’s a nice write-up about the case from the Hollywood Reporter.
Four years ago, I uploaded a video on YouTube walking through the process of registering a screenplay with the Copyright Office. You can watch it below if you want.
Over the years, I’ve had a number of people ask me questions on the YouTube page about the registration process. Rather than have you scroll through the questions and comments on the YouTube page, I though it might be useful to collect them and answer them here. I hope you find it useful.
Q: What format should I use to upload the script?
A: I would strongly recommend filing in PDF format because it is the format that will almost certainly still be used going into the future. But they will take TXT or DOC. I would not use proprietary Final Draft or Movie Magic formats because they may not be supported in the future. Both programs will allow you to output to PDF.
Q: Do I need to wait until I get back the registration certificate before submitting my script?
A: No. When you receive the certificate, it will be dated on the date you filed. So there is no need to wait.
Q: Does the script have to be in industry format?
A: No. The Copyright Office does not care about format. But if you are not using a screenplay program and want to learn about format, I would highly recommend buying The Hollywood Standard which is a really good way to learn proper scrip format tips.
Q: If I rewrite the script, do I need to register it again?
A: You’re not required to, but if your rewrites were extensive, it’s not a bad idea. Remember, if your script is infringed, the copy of the script that’s deposited with the Copyright Office is what will be at issue. You don’t need to re-register if the changes are minor. But if you feel that the changes are major enough that it warrants a new filing, go right ahead. Remember that there is a page in the application that will ask about previous registrations. So on that page you will disclose the prior script and describe the changes that you made in the new draft.
Q: Should I also register the script with the WGA Script Registry?
A: NO! The WGA Script Registry is just a scam to take your money. Read this article for the reasons why.
Q: Is there anything else I should do after filing the registration?
A: Yes. Email yourself a copy of the script using a service like Gmail or Yahoo that should be around for a long time. Title your email, “Copy of Screenplay registered with Copyright Office.” That way, even if your computer crashes or your house burns down, you can always easily find your script by searching your Gmail records.
Q: Can I file even if I’m not a U.S. citizen or resident?
A: Yes. You can file no matter where you live or your citizenship. However, the benefits of U.S. copyright registration (e.g., statutory damages, attorney’s fees) only apply if you are filing a lawsuit in the U.S. Other countries have their own laws regarding these issues.
Q: Is there a way to save my information to make it easier to file subsequent registrations?
A: Yes, there is. When you are done preparing your first application (on the “Review Submission” page), you will see a button at that top that says, “Save Template.”
Click that button, name your template (e.g., “My Screenplay Template) and it will save all the information in your application. The next time you want to register, at the first screen, click the “Use a Template” button on the left and then select your template.
Everything will be all filled out. You just make the changes you need, such as the title of the work and the year of completion, but most of the pages will be already filled out.
That’s it. Have fun and good luck.
As you may know, if you’ve been following this blog for awhile, for the past four years I’ve been defending Mark Towle of Gotham Garage in a lawsuit brought by DC Comics. Mark is one of the leading purveyors of replica automobiles in the country, and he was sued by DC for copyright infringement for making life-size, working replicas of the 1966 and 1989 Batmobiles.
What Mark does is absolutely allowed under U.S. Copyright Law because Congress specifically stated that the design of an automobile (any automobile, even the Batmobile) is not protected by copyright because it is a “useful article” and “useful articles” cannot be copyrighted.
Unfortunately, when we took this argument to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the 9th Circuit created a huge exception to this rule, stating that if the car could be considered a “character” then it was protected by copyright, despite the fact that Mark did not copy any of the Batmobiles from the comic books.
So, to right this wrong, myself, along with Ed McPherson and Tracy Rane of McPherson Rane filed a petition for cert yesterday, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to correct this injustice and overreach of copyright law. I will let you know when we get word of their answer. Here’s a link to the Petition for Cert. And here’s a link to the documents in the Appendix (for those really interested). Finally, the Hollywood Reporter did a write up on the petition and you can read that here.
On May 30, 2015, at 4:00 p.m., I will be speaking at Scriptfest in Burbank on legal issues that every screenwriter needs to know.
On June 9, 2015, at 7 p.m., I will be speaking at California Lawyers for the Arts on “The Top Ten Legal Things Every Filmmaker Needs to Know to Avoid Getting Ripped Off (or Sued).”
And on July 11, 2015, I will be on a panel at Comic-Con speaking about recent developments in the law that affect creators. Time and location will be posted closer to the event.
If you are in the area and these topics interest you, please come and say “Hi.”