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.