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Video: How to legally protect your screenplay by registering it with the WGA and the Library of Congress

One of the most common questions I get from screenwriters is: “How do I protect my screenplay?”

I decided to make a quick video the explains exactly how to do it and actually demonstrates how easy it is.

I also wrote a post that goes into more depth in a few areas that you can find here: How do you protect your work? Screenplay copyrights and WGA registration

here is the video:

If you found this video helpful, please subscribe to my YouTube Channel and share this video with others.

Here is the transcript for the entire video if you prefer to read it.

Welcome to the Selling Your Screenplay YouTube channel, I am Ashley Scott
Myers, screenwriter and blogger over at SellingYourScreenplay.com. So, I’m
still trying to figure out how YouTube works, and to kind of get my flow
down, how to add videos, and get them up to YouTube, I figured I would just
do a quick simple video, answering one of the most common questions that I
get. And that question is: how do I protect my screenplay?

So, there’s basically two things you can do to protect your screenplay. You
can send it to the WGA for registration, or you can get a copyright through
the Library of Congress. The WGA costs $20, and it lasts for 5 years. The
Library of Congress is $35 if you do it online, or $65 if you snail-mail it
in, but it lasts for 75 years, so, it’s a little bit better. Five years
seems like a long time when you first finish a screenplay but believe me,
I’ve got scripts that are much older than five years, and I’m still out
there trying to hawk them, so five years is not really that long of a time
and then you would need to renew it to get a new valid WGA number. So, what
I typically do when I finish a screenplay is register with both services.
That way, I have the WGA number in case somebody asks for it, and a lot of
times, when I’m submitting to producers, they actually will specifically
ask for a WGA number on the release form. So then I have that, and I also
have the protection of a copyright through the Library of Congress.

O.K., so now I’m just going to do a quick demonstration of how to register
the script online. I will put the actual URL in the show notes below, so
you can click to it, but I actually found this through a Google search, I
just did a search for WGA west register script, it takes you right there,
you just click through and this is WGA West’s online registration form, so
if the URL ever changes, a Google search will help you out.

So, here you are, you clicked the register online button, you go to this
next page, there’s a bunch of form fields to input the title of your
screenplay, your name, credit card information, you hit the continue button
down here. It takes you to the next page where you’re going to upload your
script. Again, just a simple upload form. Upload your script at the bottom
of this page, there’s a submit button, and then it takes you to the thank
you page which spits out your registration number. So, as you can see, this
is pretty simple.

So, now I’m just going to give you a quick demonstration about how to get a
copyright through the Library of Congress website. Again, I’ll put this URL
in the show notes so you can click on it, but if the URL ever stops
working, if you listen to this in the future, I just found this by doing a
Google search, it’s U.S. copyright office forms, you do that search, and
it’s pretty much the first thing that comes up. It takes you to this page,
and what you want to do, for a screenplay, is the performing arts form.
It’s Form PA, or shortform PA. Now, if you click on these, you’re actually
going to get a .pdf document, and so you would print that, fill it out, and
then send it in with a check for $65. But if you use their online form,
it’s actually only $35, so, that’s actually quite a nice savings, and it’s
a lot quicker if you do it online. So, all you do is just click on the
electronic copyright office. It takes you to this page, you click through,
and then you come to this page where you’d going to have to create an
account. Click on “New user,” I’ve already created my account, but you’re
going to just create new user, set up your account, and then it’s basically
going to take you to this page. And what you’re going to want to do is
click on “Register a new claim.” It asks you a couple of questions, and
then, boom, start registration. It gives you some information you need to
check on, and so this is basically the checklist. Their website is a little
clunky, and, I would say, overdone. But, it does work, and it is pretty
quick, but it will take a little bit of time, and you have to read each
page, because each page is slightly different information and you’ve got to
fill in addresses for this, and addresses for that. Anyways, this is a list
of all the different pages you’re going to get through. You just keep
clicking continue, filling out the pages, and at the very end you’re going
to come to a credit card page. You put in your credit card information, and
then click submit, and you will have an official copyright on your

O.K., a couple of closing points. Keep in mind, if you don’t register your
screenplay, it doesn’t mean people can steal your work. The WGA and the
Library of Congress getting the copyright, it’s really just a means of
establishing who wrote what, and when you wrote it. It’s a third party
validation that you wrote this on such a date, in case there is anybody who
ends up trying to steal your work. But, keep in mind, if you don’t
register it, it doesn’t mean people are allowed to steal your work. You’re
still protected, this is just an additional layer. One thing I find is that
newer writers are usually a little bit too overly protected of their
brilliant ideas.

Number one, they’re usually not that brilliant. But, mainly, if you just
think this through a little bit, any legitimate producer who is going to
spend, you know, millions of dollars producing a film, is going to pay the
screenwriter some legitimate sum of money. It just wouldn’t make sense to
go out and produce a film and spend millions of dollars and not own the
rights to the screenplay that they’re shooting. It would be an incredibly
dumb business decision, just forget about the ethics of it. It would just
be incredibly stupid. So, I think new writers are overly concerned that
someone will steal their ideas. I’m sure it happens, I’m sure it has
happened, but it’s really not something you need to worry about. Just be
prudent, register with WGA, register with the Library of Congress, take
that information, put it in a safe place, and then send your scripts out as
far and as wide as you possibly can. That’s what I do, and that’s what I

Thank you for watching this video, I hope you found it helpful. If you
haven’t already received my free guide, “How to sell your screenplay in
five weeks,” you can pick that up by going to
sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your
e-mail address, and I’ll send you a new lesson every week for five weeks
along with a bunch of bonus lessons. I teach the whole process of how to
sell your screenplay, how to write a professional logline and query letter,
and how to find agents and managers and producers who are looking for
material. It really is a complete guide to selling your screenplay, and
again, it’s completely free. I’ll link to it below if you feel like
checking it out. Thanks again, keep an eye out for more videos as I plan to
really grow this YouTube channel. Thanks again, bye bye.