Scripts, like all other literary and dramatic works, benefit from copyright. Copyright is a very valuable and important intellectual property right for a couple of reasons.
First, it protects a broad spectrum of valuable materials. Copyright protects most literary, artistic and other creative works. This is not only limited to works of artistic or graphic design, reports, documents, and presentations, but also other valuable materials like blogs, photographs, videos and artwork.
Second, copyright arises automatically from the moment of creation of the work in question. The biggest practical advantage of copyright arising automatically is that you don’t have to do anything to get it (e.g. like trade marks or patents, where you have to make an application to an intellectual property office and pay a registration fee and renewal fees).
There is a persisting myth that you have to formally register your script in the UK (and pay to do so), which is not the case. You just have to make sure you are meticulous with your record-keeping! You should ensure to keep each iteration of the script recorded (ideally electronically) so that you can show a chain of earlier drafts tracking the evolution of the script from inception to completion.
As an added layer of protection, you may also consider having a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) drawn up before you pitch your script to any potential producers. This would give you an action under the doctrine of breach of confidence (together with copyright infringement) if someone did then take the script forward without your permission.
From a practical perspective, if you do end up pitching your script to someone, you should also try and keep a record of the conversation. This can be as simple as a follow-up after the meeting saying something along the lines of, “Thank you for listening to my idea and I’m glad you liked this particular aspect of it”. This not only serves as a record of the conversation, but it also acts as a thank you note which never goes amiss!
Here at Briffa, our team benefits from over 25 years of experience assisting with both bringing and defending copyright infringement claims in nearly every jurisdiction in the world. If you need any further information in this regard please do feel free to get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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