I got this question recently:

“I’m trying to seek advice on registering my screenplay.  I live in Australia and have just completed a first draft. The story is based in the US and will be targeted at the US market. I believe WGA registration is okay for non US citizens but what about the US Copyright Office? Is that valid for non US citizens as well?”

I’m really not an expert in this area so you might want to do your own research.  In general I think both the WGA and the US Copyright office will work for you even though you don’t live in the U.S. In your case I would use both.  Use the WGA online registration form. That way you’ll immediately have a WGA number and won’t have to wait around for the US Copyright office to get back to you.  In my experience the US Copyright office has taken 6 months or more to get back to me – and I live in the US – so it might be a long while before you hear anything out of them.

Having a copyright or WGA registration number for your screenplay is only a formal way of establishing when you completed your script.  Even without it people are still not allowed to steal your stories and ideas.

As with all legal matters, I highly encourage you to consult with an entertainment lawyer if you have any legal questions.

One thought on “WGA registrations and copyrights by non US citizens”
  1. Hi. I live in the UK (originally from NZ) and I’ve registered all my spec scripts with both the WGAw and the US Copyright Office. I did both using their online system.
    The US Copyright online system is a pain in the butt to use, but here’s why I decided to do it:
    I just recently finished reading The Writer Got Screwed (But Didn’t Have To) by Brooke A Wharton; an Entertainment Lawyer.

    Before reading this I was content to just register my work with the WGA, but I got concerned when I read her passage about Copyright and how people are confused as to how you are protected. As a result I immediately registered for official Copyright from the US Copyright Office.

    I was under the impression that although the WGA registry is really only a database of record of registration to help prove when you wrote it, it would be sufficient to help if you ever (god forbid) needed to pursue legal action against someone who may have stolen your work. It would be more difficult but sufficent. But after reading the book I don’t think you can actually do much legally unless you have copyright registration. It would be good if someone could confirm this.

    From what I can gather: You cannot file an action for copyright infringement without having registered your work. You cannot sue for copyright infringement if your work is registerd only with the WGA.

    So I figured, I better register copyright. Understand though that you have immediate copyright on your work as soon as it becomes tangible; by either writing it down on a napkin or typing it into a computer. As soon as it’s out of your head and is able to be presented in a tangible form, you are the copright owner of the work. Registration provides a legal statutory backbone to your work.

    Oh and I have not placed any copyright notice on my screenplays as I too heard that it reeks of paranoia and amateurism. I figured that any professional in the industry would assume I have taken measures to protect my work. (And if they think they can get away with it, well that Copyright registration provides me with more peace of mind).

    I do however place Copyright notice on synopsis/treatments and written pitches to alert people that this idea has been written in tangible form and is my copyright.

    Now also in the book, it says you should place All rights reserved after the copryright notice which should help protect you if a country who has the script doesn’t have the same laws as the US.

    I figure, it’s the only real thing writers have to help protect their work so I paid for both the WGA and Copyright.

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