Does posting a script protect a screenwriter's copyright?

Writing a hit screenplay is a life goal for so many creative scribes of all ages, yet there is a worry that even after finishing your masterpiece, your glory could be robbed from you by the plagiarism of some hack. As a result, protecting your copyright is an important consideration.

Part of the issue in copyright disputes relates to identifying exactly when something was written, which is why so many writers decide to post themselves a copy of their script. Does this actually make a difference, though, or is it one of those urban myths that simply refuses to go away?


An important concept to understand is that copyright applies automatically as soon as you have created an original work that involved at least some work. So it is not that posting your script makes it any more copyrighted, it only serves as a clear marker about when you produced the script.

When two people become entangled in a legal dispute over who came up with an idea first, there will be all sorts of factors to consider (how similar the scripts are, whether one writer could have seen the other's work, etc.), but having this kind of solid evidence will work heavily in your favour.

Posting your script

The most important thing to remember if you are going to post your script to your self is that it should be sent by recorded delivery and remain unopened. Logically, this means that a third party is confirming the day it was sent and, by not opening the parcel, you show that this is what was contained in the parcel on that date.

One more thing you can do is to get another person to sign and date a letter attached to the script saying that you are sending this to yourself as proof of copyright. It may be worth adding a clear note on the outside of which script you are sending, as you will no doubt have many over the years and you need something to help you identify which is which! 

Does it protect fully?

Despite giving you a great deal of protection, there is a chance that someone could get away with plagiarising from you even though you have your script in a closed parcel from a specific date. The main issue is that copyright cases do not usually involve one person producing an identical script to another - more often than not, it will be about certain sections being very similar, particularly when the script is based on another original work. This can turn the case into something of a grey area and you then rely on the interpretation of the legal official.

As a result, you cannot say that posting your script by recorded delivery will fully protect you from plagiarism, but it is a great help. You may also want to email it to yourself periodically during the creative process to add credence to your story, as well as register it with a copyright registration service when it is finished. Always consult with a legal professional if you are unsure of your situation.

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