You’ve written a screenplay, you’re ready to start shopping it around, and now you’re squinting at your computer screen, wondering about the difference between WGA registration and US Copyright Registration. The Writer’s Guild of America says they can use your registration as legal evidence…so if you register with them, are you good?
My professional advice? Registering with the WGA is a personal decision; but no matter what, make sure that you register your work with the US Copyright Office. Here’s why.
What are the benefits of WGA registration?
The main benefits of registering your script with your branch of the WGA are twofold:
1. It’s a little cheaper than a copyright registration.
Though not by much; a US Copyright Office registration is around $40. WGA registration is $10 if you’re a member of the Writer’s Guild, and $20 if you’re not. We’re not talking hundreds of dollars, here.
2. It’s the industry standard.
When something is an industry standard, abiding by those rules gives your script a big shiny “I’m a professional and I know what I’m doing” stamp to higher-ups. This is not to be discounted! Like formatting an email subject line or a cover letter in a particular way, it can be the tiny signal that gets your script through the gatekeepers.
Truthfully, these are the only two real benefits of WGA registration. Let’s take a look at the US Copyright Office benefits…
What are the benefits of US Copyright Office registration?
1. It provides proof of ownership.
It’s a tricky distinction, but WGA registration provides a dated record of your authorship. It doesn’t actually provide proof of ownership–which is the protection you need to bring an effective lawsuit against thieves.
2. It gives you much more than 5 years of protection.
WGA registration lasts for 5 years. Copyright registration lasts for your entire life, plus 70 years. And for only about $20 extra!
3. If you need to take a case to court, it can cover your attorney’s fees and statutory damages.
Provided you register your script before any infringements happen (and/or within 90 days of publication), if someone decides to steal all or part of your script and put their name on it, you’re fully covered. With your copyright registered, you have a case that–if you win–could get you your attorney’s fees and statutory damages, which means you don’t necessarily have to worry about losing a ton of money to battle someone in court.
In other words, registration with the US Copyright Office affords you stronger protection overall.
Conclusion: What’s the difference between WGA registration and US Copyright registration?
WGA registration is more of a formality that doesn’t afford you a ton of protection in court, but puts a stamp on your script saying, “I know the industry standard!” US Copyright registration, on the other hand, gives you the tools and proof you need to keep your intellectual property truly secure.