Copyrighting a script offers writers a means of protecting the intellectual and creative property of their work. Even if a script remains unsold, others will not be able to copy, share, or distribute the script without your permission.
Copyright protection for a script in the United Kingdom can be a complex subject, however, at its basic, when a script is created, it is the intellectual property of the author. Copyright protection is an unregistered right, so you don’t need to do anything to obtain protection, this begins from the moment the script is written and is enforceable by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
There are not many barriers for authors automatically obtaining copyright protection but one key element is that for a script to be eligible for copyright protection, it must be an original work of authorship and fixed in some type of tangible medium, i.e. it must be written down or typed. Copyright protection does not cover ideas or concepts, only the expression of those ideas.
However, enforcing that protection can be difficult and authors should follow some simple steps to ensure that they can effectively enforce their copyright, for example:
The reason for this is that because there is no register of copyright works in the UK, the steps above will help show the origin of your work and how your script came about. This could be vital should you need to establish copyright infringement and whose work came first.
Whilst copyright is an automatic right in most of the world, there are some countries in which you’ll need to register it in order to bring infringement proceedings, e.g. the United States.
In America, whilst copyright again exists the moment the script is written, you will need to register the script with the US Copyright Office before you can bring any infringement proceedings, this registration is voluntary.
It is important to note that copyright protection for a script in the UK and most other countries is only valid for a fixed period of time. Generally, the protection lasts for 70 years after the death of the author.
In any event, copyright exists from the moment the script is written, providing a writer with the tools to protect their hard work against any potential infringement. By taking the simple steps to record your creative process, all writers should see their creative and imaginative scripts given proper attribution even if the work is never produced.
Written by Alex Welham – Solicitor
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