It is absolutely essential that all screenwriters looking to profit from their work have an understanding of copyright law. If the legal procedures necessary to protect your work are not undertaken, it will be impossible to prove that your work is your own. Luckily, the proper procedures are easy to understand and execute.
The first fact about copyrighting that any screenwriter should be aware of is a piece of good news – the government is on your side. Under United Kingdom law, any original work is automatically placed under copyright as soon as it is recorded in any form. Thus, by simply putting your work down on paper, whether it be a screenplay, a treatment, or simply an idea, you are instantly protected under copyright law. The idea belongs to you, and it is illegal for any other individual to pass it off as his or her own.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that unless you take further measures, it will be very difficult to prove that this work is in fact your own. For, even though it has been copyrighted, one must still obtain sufficient proof that he or she actually created the work in question.
What methods are necessary to obtain such proof has been a point of contention among screenwriters for years. One long-standing industry rumor claims that all a writer must do to assert ownership over a work is to, upon completion, send a copy to him or herself through the mail. This is false. In reality, further measures are necessary in order to officially register a work as your own.
Raindance offers such services to its members for free (20 pounds for nonmembers.) Once we receive your script or treatment along with your contact information, we can file it within our records, thus confirming your copyright. While this might seem like a tiresome and unnecessary chore along the path to your screenplay’s success, I assure you that it is in fact crucial.