To a writer, a script or screenplay may be just as valuable as a luxury car. Just as a person purchases alarm systems to protect valuable objects from theft, so, too, do writers try to protect their written property with a copyright. Finding out how to copyright a script is an important part of securing the protection of a created work.
Many regions have government offices that handle the registration and copyrights for written material. Getting a copyright from a government organization may be as simple as filling out a form, paying a fee, and sending a copy to the organization for records. Deciding to copyright a script with a government agency is generally one of the most often recommended forms of protection, as federal agencies are usually considered reliable sources in court.
A government copyright office provides a record that the script was submitted by a certain author on a certain date. In many regions, the ability to copyright a script is an inherent individual right granted to the author, therefore the author has the copyright on all original material with or without official registration. Rather than allowing an author to copyright the script, what a registration office does is provide corroborating evidence of the date, time, and version of the script in case of a legal challenge to the copyright.
In the United States, scripts can be registered online or by mail for copyright purposes with the Library of Congress. In the United Kingdom, the same service is provided by the Intellectual Property Office. Canada uses a similar organization called the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. To copyright a script in any country, simply look up the governmental copyright agency.
Since a copyright is generally inherent under common law and registration serves only as a legal record, some third party businesses and organizations may be able to provide similar services to government offices. Writer's organizations, such as the Writer's Guild of America, allow script registration through their regional offices. The process for obtaining registration is generally the same as offered by other groups, though some experts recommend getting both a government and a third-party registration for the sake of legal redundancy. To copyright a script with a third-party company, call regional guild offices or simply search for "script copyright" on the Internet.
It is important to remember when trying to copyright a script that registration, and even copyrights, may be subject to statutes of limitation. In some cases, copyrights are only good for a certain amount of years after the original author dies, after which the work reverts to the public domain. Registration services may require periodic reapplication to keep records current, usually every five to ten years.