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Old 7th May 2012, 07:13 AM   #1
Ron_Tomkins
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What's the best and easiest way to copyright something?

I wrote a script for a short film and as I'm looking for actors, I've been sending copies of the script but then a friend of mine told me what I already suspected: that I shouldn't do that. So now I'm only sending excerpts but there's still a few full copies of the script out there. So I would like to copyright it. What's the best and easiest method to copyright something?
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Old 7th May 2012, 07:17 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
I wrote a script for a short film and as I'm looking for actors, I've been sending copies of the script but then a friend of mine told me what I already suspected: that I shouldn't do that. So now I'm only sending excerpts but there's still a few full copies of the script out there. So I would like to copyright it. What's the best and easiest method to copyright something?
You have a copyright on a work as soon as it is published. But, you are best protected if you register the copyright. It's not expensive or difficult. But, don't believe anything you read on the Internet about copyrights except what you find at http://www.copyright.gov/. :-)

-- Roger
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Old 7th May 2012, 07:19 AM   #3
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The script is already protected under copyright law; you don't actually have to do anything to gain that protection.

But if you're concerned that someone might try to copy your script and you want proof (and the ability to sue), then all you have to do is register your script with the Copyright office.

Instructions are here. Any decent IP firm can also do it for you for a relatively reasonable fee.
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Old 7th May 2012, 07:58 AM   #4
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Thank you, man. I must say this website is extremely cryptic. I finally managed to register in the website and now I'm just trying to get the goddamn online application form, but this thing just keeps redirecting me to pages that explain the application process. But I can't get it to actually give me the online application form already!!! It's just page after page giving explanations about the different kinds of works that one can copyright, etc etc etc....
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Old 7th May 2012, 08:09 AM   #5
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Start here:

http://www.copyright.gov/eco/notice.html

Once you've registered and logged in, let me know if you're still unsure what to do.
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Old 7th May 2012, 08:16 AM   #6
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Yes I had started there but I was having problems finding the application. But now I found it. FINALLY. As I said, it's a very cryptic page but I'm making progress. Hopefully I will make it all the way through and manage to register my work.
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Old 7th May 2012, 08:24 AM   #7
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It's very cryptic indeed. I've worked out and filed online form eCO a few times. http://www.copyright.gov/eco/faq.html It's the kind of klunky system one expects from government projects, but it works.

Quote:
Anyone can use eCO to register basic claims to copyright, even those who intend to submit a hard copy(ies) of the work(s) being registered. Basic claims include literary works, visual arts works, performing arts works, sound recordings, motion pictures, and single serial issues.
First create an account on their eCO system. Then you can start filling in your forms eCO and frequently save partially-completed forms as you puzzle out what to do over the course of a few days. On the form, you create one major work and then can create multiple component titles within the work, then list names etc of creator, contact, etc.

Once complete, you move to the next step, which is to pay $35 to some other government system, but they do lead you through the steps ...

Next step is to upload your batch of files. here are the allowed file types: http://www.copyright.gov/eco/help-file-types.html ... You are allowed multiple half-hour sessions if you have a lot to upload.

Then wait a couple of months, and receive a lovely piece of paper. If there are any issues, you will receive a friendly email from some person specifying the difficulty.
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Old 7th May 2012, 08:31 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by jadebox View Post
You have a copyright on a work as soon as it is published. But, you are best protected if you register the copyright. It's not expensive or difficult. But, don't believe anything you read on the Internet about copyrights except what you find at http://www.copyright.gov/. :-)

-- Roger

Sorry, my apologies, but that's not quite accurate.

When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
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Old 7th May 2012, 09:05 AM   #9
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As with many things, the best is not the easiest and the easiest is not the best.
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Old 7th May 2012, 09:05 AM   #10
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Keep your drafts. Hundreds of incremental copies of a developing script is hard to argue against.
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Old 7th May 2012, 10:45 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by slingblade View Post
Sorry, my apologies, but that's not quite accurate.

When is my work protected?
Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
As, I said, you shouldn't trust anything on the internet about copyright except what is said at copyright.gov!

Anyway ... if a script is written in the forest and no one is there to read it .....

-- Roger
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Old 7th May 2012, 11:15 AM   #12
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Okay, by now I've done everything. Now I'm at this screen where they ask me if I want to submit my copies online or if I wanna send them.

I wanna do it online, and it says "Click the "Upload Deposit" link in the table below and browse and select the electronic file(s) for the corresponding work. If there are
multiple cases in the table, repeat these steps until the files for all cases have been submitted."


I clicked on it the Upload Deposit link, the browser acted like it was gonna load another page.... and then nothing. I repeat the step and the same result. Nothing happens.

Now what????
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Old 7th May 2012, 11:17 AM   #13
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I tried loading the main profile page. This time I loaded the case. I had, again, a link that says "Upload Deposit". I click on it, the browser thinks for a while and then NOTHING.
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Old 7th May 2012, 11:52 AM   #14
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Then call their customer service number.
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Old 7th May 2012, 12:19 PM   #15
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You can also register scripts with the Writer's Guild of America. There's an east and a west coast branch. Here's a link to the east: WGAe.

The process is very straightforward, you don't have to be a member, and it may even be slightly cheaper than the U.S. copyright route.
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Old 7th May 2012, 12:27 PM   #16
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I think the next screen is a popup. Make sure your browser is allowing popups from copyright.gov .. or whatever site might be in the mix.
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Old 7th May 2012, 06:39 PM   #17
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Actually, if it is merely proof of authorship and the date which you need, an end run is to mail yourself a copy snail mail and leave it sealed until needed in court. The cancellation on the stamp serves as your proof. Tape it up good so that there is no chance of your having gotten into the envelope once you receive it. From then on, a favourable judgement serves as your proof.
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Old 7th May 2012, 07:11 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by TSR View Post
Actually, if it is merely proof of authorship and the date which you need, an end run is to mail yourself a copy snail mail and leave it sealed until needed in court. The cancellation on the stamp serves as your proof. Tape it up good so that there is no chance of your having gotten into the envelope once you receive it. From then on, a favourable judgement serves as your proof.
Urban myth (at least in the U.S.)
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Old 7th May 2012, 07:40 PM   #19
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Copyright is pretty easy compared to its older brother -- defending your copyright.
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Old 7th May 2012, 08:00 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by TSR View Post
Actually, if it is merely proof of authorship and the date which you need, an end run is to mail yourself a copy snail mail and leave it sealed until needed in court. The cancellation on the stamp serves as your proof. Tape it up good so that there is no chance of your having gotten into the envelope once you receive it. From then on, a favourable judgement serves as your proof.
Nope. Too easy to fake.

Quote:
I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?
The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.
http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html
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Old 8th May 2012, 06:22 AM   #21
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I never said it was a substitute for registration, and no, if the item is wrapped in packing tape with the cancellation on the outside of said tape it is *not* easy to fake.

I am aware of a case where court was avoided and a settlement reached on the strength of this practice, but since I do not have personal access to the various attorneys correspondence in order to scan the evidence nor permission to "out" the players involved, I will let the matter drop at that.
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Old 8th May 2012, 06:30 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
Yes I had started there but I was having problems finding the application. But now I found it. FINALLY. As I said, it's a very cryptic page but I'm making progress. Hopefully I will make it all the way through and manage to register my work.
Ease-of-use testing, legal rigor that will stand up in court, and government bureaucracy all collide, like the Three Stooges' heads when they all bend over to pick up a quarter.
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The government should nationalize it! Socialized, single-payer video game development and sales now! More, cheaper, better games, right? Right?
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Old 8th May 2012, 06:34 AM   #23
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Sadly, ease-of-use testing is the Larry of that group.
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The government should nationalize it! Socialized, single-payer video game development and sales now! More, cheaper, better games, right? Right?
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Old 8th May 2012, 06:37 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by TSR View Post
I never said it was a substitute for registration, and no, if the item is wrapped in packing tape with the cancellation on the outside of said tape it is *not* easy to fake.

I am aware of a case where court was avoided and a settlement reached on the strength of this practice, but since I do not have personal access to the various attorneys correspondence in order to scan the evidence nor permission to "out" the players involved, I will let the matter drop at that.
A Sooper Seekrit court case that isn't public record? That is unbelieveable.
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Old 8th May 2012, 10:02 AM   #25
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If you want to sue someone in court, you have to register with the Copyright office anyway.

Doing so now gives you some additional options when suing infringers.
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Old 8th May 2012, 11:46 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by TSR View Post
I never said it was a substitute for registration, and no, if the item is wrapped in packing tape with the cancellation on the outside of said tape it is *not* easy to fake.
It would still be much easier to fake than an actual copyright registration. Plus, to use it you'd have to open the envelope, destroying your evidence.

Another way to accomplish pretty much the same thing (that wouldn't have to be destroyed to be used), would be to photocopy the document then have the post office stamp the date on the copy for you. But, I don't know of any cases of that method being successfully used in a court either.

-- Roger
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Old 8th May 2012, 01:21 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by TSR View Post
I never said it was a substitute for registration
Then what exactly is the point? Since registration is considered prima facie evidence of copyright if registered within 5 years of publication, and in order to file suit for copyright infringement you have to have it registered, there is really no reason why you would do this.
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Old 8th May 2012, 03:10 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
Ease-of-use testing, legal rigor that will stand up in court, and government bureaucracy all collide, like the Three Stooges' heads when they all bend over to pick up a quarter.
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Old 8th May 2012, 03:11 PM   #29
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I just tried today using Firefox and just as I (and others here) suspected, it was the damn Pop-up blocking thingie. I had to disable it and FINALLY after many attempts and bumps against each and every single obstacle, I have submitted it online.

So now.... I'm technically protected if someone tries to steal my stuff, right?
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Old 8th May 2012, 04:18 PM   #30
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The copyright site clearly listed (in several places, as I recall) to disable any pop-up blockers. I remember reading the notices several times as I wound my way through the copyright process (three times thus far).

An actual copyright is MUCH preferable to registering with the WGA. The WGA only holds your registration for a couple years, while the copyright runs for some absurd length of time (lifetime of author plus 75 years, if I remember correctly). The WGA would have you believe they police their membership; however, discussions I've had with several other writers caught up in different authorship disputes through the WGA seems to indicate their judgement and enforcement is rather, well, arbitrary. And their appeals process consists of asking the original arbitrators (all full WGA members) if they think they MIGHT have made a mistake.

With a copyright, you STILL have to mount your own offensive against people who've infringed on your materials. However, for whatever other faults they might have, the government DOES maintain good records that tend to stand up well to court scrutiny. And I think the difference in price between WGA registration and copyright registration is, what? Five bucks? Worth it for me.

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Old 8th May 2012, 05:07 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by tomwaits View Post
Then what exactly is the point? Since registration is considered prima facie evidence of copyright if registered within 5 years of publication, and in order to file suit for copyright infringement you have to have it registered, there is really no reason why you would do this.
It saves you the cost of copyright registration if, as is usually the case, you never actually end up in court.
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Old 8th May 2012, 05:27 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Ron_Tomkins View Post
I just tried today using Firefox and just as I (and others here) suspected, it was the damn Pop-up blocking thingie. I had to disable it and FINALLY after many attempts and bumps against each and every single obstacle, I have submitted it online.

So now.... I'm technically protected if someone tries to steal my stuff, right?
As much as I've been able to google up over past years, if someone starts making gobs of money off your work, you now have some solid evidence to present in a civil suit. For a $35 'stamp' you 'emailed yourself' very strong proof that your work existed on May 7. I found at least one copyright lawyer that said having actually registered copyright as opposed to having a pile of drafts and postmarked envelopes as evidence would make the difference between his taking the case on a contingency-fee basis rather than making you pay up a big fat retainer. You may be able to claim the money they made in the past as damages, and you may only be able to claim any money from that point forward -- and having registered your claim can be what makes that difference.

Until the stakes get high enough to sue, I suppose all one can do when someone else presents your work as their own is to tell them to shut up.
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Old 8th May 2012, 05:34 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by AvalonXQ View Post
It saves you the cost of copyright registration if, as is usually the case, you never actually end up in court.
This makes no sense. If you want to save the cost of copyright registration, and you somehow know (yeah right) that you won't ever end up in court, then there's no point in doing anything. You might as well do a copyright dance out in the front yard for all the good it will do you. The whole point of copyright registration is that there is a chance, however slim, that you will want to assert your copyright of the material over someone else.

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Old 8th May 2012, 06:21 PM   #34
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You don't have to know that you won't end up in court. You just have to know that the value of the registration to your case, multiplied by the chances you'll ever take that particular registration into a courtroom, is less than $35.
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Old 8th May 2012, 06:30 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by AvalonXQ View Post
You don't have to know that you won't end up in court. You just have to know that the value of the registration to your case, multiplied by the chances you'll ever take that particular registration into a courtroom, is less than $35.
I still don't understand. What is mailing yourself the material going to do? There's no evidence that it has ever worked, and in order to file suit in court you'd have to be registered anyway, so there's absolutely no point. You might as well do nothing. There is zero gain in mailing yourself the material and all the gain in the world by registering.
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Old 9th May 2012, 07:57 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Beanbag View Post
...snip...
An actual copyright is MUCH preferable to registering with the WGA. The WGA only holds your registration for a couple years, while the copyright runs for some absurd length of time (lifetime of author plus 75 years, if I remember correctly). The WGA would have you believe they police their membership; however, discussions I've had with several other writers caught up in different authorship disputes through the WGA seems to indicate their judgement and enforcement is rather, well, arbitrary. And their appeals process consists of asking the original arbitrators (all full WGA members) if they think they MIGHT have made a mistake.
...snip...
Beanbag
Just for the record, the WGA registration lasts 10 years, and can be renewed at whatever the going rate is at the time of renewal. I'm inclined to take your word on the rest of your objections, and appreciate the info. I didn't realize the WGA had a such poor reputation.

As for mailing copies to oneself, it's my impression that having a WGA or (more preferably!) a US copyright reference number listed on your cover page is, in itself, a strong deterrent against anyone actually inclined to steal your material. If that's the scenario you're worried about.
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Old 9th May 2012, 10:36 AM   #37
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Another benefit of copyright registration is that you can brag that your work is in the Library of Congress! :-)

-- Roger
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Old 9th May 2012, 11:27 AM   #38
Ron_Tomkins
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Originally Posted by jadebox View Post
Another benefit of copyright registration is that you can brag that your work is in the Library of Congress! :-)

-- Roger
Nice. I will mention that to the ladies next time I'm at a bar.
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Old 9th May 2012, 03:32 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Ryan O'Dine View Post
I'm inclined to take your word on the rest of your objections, and appreciate the info. I didn't realize the WGA had a such poor reputation.
Mind you, the remarks came from writers who got the raw end of WGA arbitration, but were ACTUAL members of the WGA, not some unaffiliated authors who forked over the $30-$40 bucks for registration. I've heard the same story about WGA appeals from several diverse sources at different times.

But remember the rule of thumb that a person who's angry will tell twelve people, while a satisfied customer will tell maybe two.

The good news is that WGA registration is essentially immediate, while a copyright is listed as pending until granted, which can take weeks/months, depending on how fast the wheels turn. I understand that for several hundreds of dollars, you can get expedited processing. You DO get a registration number on submitting your work for copyright, which should at least provide notice that you're serious.

The "mail yourself a copy" strategy is laughable at best. Why not take a copy of your work to the bank and get it notarized? That, at least, has some semblance of legality, complete with a registered date on the document.

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Old 10th May 2012, 04:09 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by crimresearch View Post
A Sooper Seekrit court case that isn't public record? That is unbelieveable.
Yeah, it would be.

But that's not what I said.

What is your native language and I will translate
Originally Posted by TSR View Post
I am aware of a case where court was avoided ...
for you.

Or you could try reading for comprehension next time.
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