Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Circle C

An Idea is a commodity. In the entertainment industry, it can be sold and traded. But an idea cannot be copyrighted. If you have an idea for a movie or a television show, treat it as a precious jewel. Don’t tell people where it can be found, unguarded. Sure, you might need to reach out to someone to help craft the story or the script, but make sure you protect your idea.

While an idea cannot be copyrighted, a script can. Many still believe that a literary work must be published to be considered copyrighted. Once a work is written down, recorded, or tangibly fixed in an acceptable form, it is in effect, copyrighted. The current copyright law protects a work for the author’s lifetime plus an additional 70 years, recently changed from 50.

So why register your work with the Library of Congress? First, it establishes a public record of your work. Secondly, it can lead to larger damages awarded in court actions. While the United States copyright law protects literary works, it does not protect titles, names, phrases or slogans. This is one reason you might see a movie with the same name as an older one.

Another recommended practice in the entertainment industry is to register the script with the Writer’s Guild of America. You do not have to be a member of the guild and it is common practice to register screenplays with the WGA. Registering your script is a solid way to establish a public record.

Both methods of registration are fairly simple and are not expensive. The common screenwriting software even allows for registration from a menu in the program.
It used to be important for copyright owners to put a notice of copyright on all published works. For works published on or after March 1, 1989, the use of notice is optional. If using a notice, the following elements must be used: the “c” in a circle symbol or the word “copyright,” the year of first publication, and the name of the owner of the copyright.

Protect your work and make sure you register your copyright.


  1. I read a great quote this morning along those lines: "The day you say 'that jerk stole my idea' is the day you need to face your own inability to execute."

  2. Here's a copyright question for you .... I recently copyrighted a short script I wrote. Since then, I have made some changes to the script. They aren't significant changes, a line here or there, some description, etc. The bulk of the story has remained intact. Do I need to file for another copyright?

  3. Not in my non-lawyer opinion. But you should always check with them.