Monday, June 23, 2014

WGA Registration vs. Copyright? Both!

Congrats on finishing your script! Before sending it out, you need to register it with the WGA AND copyright it with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Yes, you need to do both because they protect you in different ways.

Registering your material with the WGA provides dated proof your ideas exist in the form of your script. It establishes evidence. If someone steals your idea, the WGA can't do anything legally to help you.

That's where copyrighting comes in. If you copyright your script with the U.S. Copyright Office and someone steals your idea, you can claim copyright infringement. Lawyers can step in and do their thing. Whether or not suing for copyright infringement is a successful tactic is a subject for another day...

(I've been told I'm protected if I mail myself a hard copy of my script through the US Postal Service, but that feels a little too DIY for my taste. I prefer a registration number.)

So I recommend always doing both -- registering your script with the WGA costs $20 ($10 if you're a member) and copyrighting your script costs $35. Worth the money to protect your words.

I consider the moment when I register and copyright my script as a celebration of its completion, so I lay down the money happily like I'm buying my script a drink.

For more information, check out the WGA Registry FAQ and the U.S. Copyright Office FAQ.

And check out these blog posts that also discuss the topic --


  1. re:"...I've been told I'm protected if I mail myself a hard copy of my script through the US Postal Service..." the United States, the "Poor Man's Copyright" is not considered legal proof of creation or ownership (although there's apparently a tiny, tiny bit of wiggle room under UK copyright law)...

  2. ...btw, the previous comment was by neal yamamoto (i have no idea what profile i should select, so i clicked on "anonymous"...)

    1. Hi Neal! You're right - mailing yourself your script doesn't offer any proof of creation or ownership. I suppose it provides evidence of the date of creation, but I imagine that won't get you that far in an intellectual property battle - especially against the studios...

  3. Teresa, there is absolutely no need to register with the WGA. The Copyright Office registration provides all the protection that a writer needs. The WGA does not offer any greater protection or evidence of creation (in fact, it's worse because it only lasts 5 years). It's sad to say this, but the WGA Registry is simply a scam used to get money from writers. And sending a hard copy to yourself is just an urban myth. It offers no protection at all.