Script registration means registering your script with a trusted third-party or organization. And it can be a very good thing for screenwriters looking to protect their creative work.
That said, script registration is not a “magic bullet.” Think of it more like a tool to add to your toolbox. That tool, when used properly, can increase your chances of protecting your screenplay against infringers and thieves.
Let’s boil script registration down to a few pros and cons:
PRO: Script registration adds to your “paper trail”
Let’s face it. We’re screenwriters. Much, if not all of what we do, we do by ourselves, unless we’re working with a co-writer or we’re on a writing team.
As such, at the end of the day, we don’t have many folks we can turn to who can bear witness. Namely, bear witness to the fact that it was we, the writer, who created the final work. Generally speaking, all we really have is the power of the copyright. And of course, your personal testimony. Affirming that your written words on the page were indeed created by you can be difficult.
By registering your screenplay, you’re adding to the paper trail of documentation that proves your authorship of your screenplay. That paper train can be in the form of WGA registration or script registration from our company, Script Register.
PRO: Script registration *could* save you on lawyer fees
In the event of a dispute, such as when someone takes your written word and tries to pass it off as their own, when it comes to proving to a third person that you’re indeed the originator of that written word, it’s important to emphasize: your copyright does have weight, especially if you can provide the paperwork and a copy of the written work the copyright was filed for.
But how far does that copyright go? Ostensibly, very far. But in far too many cases, the furthest that the power of your copyright can reach is however far your wallet can stretch. Specifically with regards to paying for a copyright lawyer to litigate your case.
With screenplay registration, you have an additional piece of proof at your disposal — one which augments your total overall proof of authorship.
With more documentation and proof of authorship in your hands, it makes it easier for writers to be able to make their case to a judge or arbitration panel. Heavy documentation in favor of your argument and your authorship could go a long way towards minimizing the need for expensive litigation. It could also possibly hasten a settlement between you and the infringing party — all without the need for hiring an expensive lawyer or team of lawyers.
That said, having an attorney on your side is always the best way to combat copyright infringement, if you can afford it.
PRO: It’s easy to do, and fast
Nearly any service that provides script registration — even WGA registration — offers a fast, easy way to register your screenplay.
Whether it’s a simple online form you fill out and upload your script with, or walking into an office and filing the paperwork, screenplay registration is generally a very simple, fast process, making excuses such as “it’s too complicated” or “I’m not a lawyer” pretty much moot.
If you have an internet connection, you can register your screenplay with relative ease. Important note: The WGA stopped accepting “walk-in” script registrations recently. That is, you can no longer walk into the WGAw and register your screenplay. You’ll have to use their online form.
Regardless of where you register your script, name, address, email, and a few other bits of info is all you’ll need to provide, so if you can type your name and click “SUBMIT,” you can probably handle the process of screenplay registration with great ease.
CON: Script registration does cost money
Whether it’s in the neighborhood of $20 for WGA script registration, or even more at other services, registering your screenplay does cost money. If you’re a screenwriter on a budget, you may not be able to afford the $20-$50 it costs to register your script. And that’s perfectly understandable. Remember — while screenplay theft and copyright infringement does happen, it’s still a relatively rare situation. The fact is, you’re probably protected well enough just by filing your copyright, so if money is an issue for you, don’t pull your hair out worrying about whether or not you can get your screenplay registered.
CON: Registration eventually expires
No script registration lasts forever. WGA registration currently lasts 5 years, and then you have re-register. (As a sidenote, our term here at Script Register ranges from 5 years up to lifetime. It depends on what registration service you order.)
So does that mean you’re not protected when the term is up? Typically, after the term of registration is up, services will tend to delete the original documents you uploaded. That’s mostly to encourage you to re-register. That means, yes, you have the original certificate of registration. But, you may not necessarily have access to the original document you sent. Because the party you registered your script with may have deleted it.
A script registration document without the original document itself doesn’t really do you much good when it comes to proving to a judge or jury or arbitration panel that the work in question was indeed authored by you and registered by you on the date in question because they won’t be able to see the actual text of the document — the words you wrote. As such, the won’t be able to compare them with whatever document you’re claiming is an infringement of your work.
Why do these services, including Script Register, set hard term limits for their script registration?
Yes, it’s to encourage you to repurchase registration. But it’s also because of one simple economic truth: storing documents is expensive. Whether it’s the WGA or Script Register, services have to pay for server space. That means space in which to store all the screenplays they’re being sent. And those servers have to be 100% secure, which takes manpower and skill. No matter whether it’s in-house or handled by a secure upstream provider.
Here’s the bottom line: screenplay registration can help you proof your authorship. But it does cost money, and it doesn’t last forever. Only purchase script registration after you’ve done some research and copyrighted your script. And only purchase it if you can afford it. And even only then if you could use the extra assurance of having stronger proof of your authorship.