Once you complete your new screenplay, the first thing you do should be to register and/or copyright it. While it is unlikely that anyone would steal your screenplay or ideas, it can and does happen on occasion and you should protect yourself and your script by registering or copyrighting it before sending it out.
We do not recommend using the “poor man’s registration” tactic of mailing the screenplay to yourself and keeping the envelope sealed with the U.S. mail postmark serving as your legal “registration date”. According to the U.S. Copyright office, “There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.”
Both the WGA West and East offer script registration online and via mail. Registration lasts 5 years and can be renewed.
Writer’s Guild of America West – Script Registration
(Cost: $10 WGAW members, $20 non-members)
Writer’s Guild of America East – Script Registration
(Cost: $10 WGAE members, $17 students w/ID, $25 non-members)
The U.S. Copyright office also offers protection of your intellectual property, which costs a little bit more than WGA registry, but “lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years.”
U.S. Copyright Office
(Cost: $35 electronic filing, $50+ paper filing)