Home /Blogs/Protecting Your Screenplay: Should You Register with the WGA or the U.S. Copyright Office?
March 29, 2017 | EntertainmentFrom the blog

Protecting Your Screenplay: Should You Register with the WGA or the U.S. Copyright Office?

post image

Updated: October 6, 2021

You’ve spent a lot of time writing and rewriting your work.  You’ve also sent it out to others for feedback and to gauge their interest.  Often there is no telling what people will do with your work once they receive it.  What options are available for you to protect your script?

There are two common ways to safeguard your script:  registering it with the Writers Guild of America (“WGA”) and registering it with the U.S. Copyright Office.  Which should you choose?

Here are some basic highlights about each one:


  • Cost: $10 for WGA members and $20 for nonmembers, with the same cost to renew
  • Duration: 5 years, and can be renewed for additional 5-year periods
  • Protection Provided:
    • The author receives a dated record of their claim to authorship
    • This dated record creates legal evidence that establishes a date for the script’s existence
    • WGA, as a neutral third party, can testify for that legal evidence in a dispute
    • WGA keeps information about the script confidential – only you and the registration staff have access to the script


  • Cost: $35 per work
  • Duration: The remainder of the author’s life plus 70 years
  • Protection Provided:
  • Allows you to file a copyright infringement (i.e., unauthorized use or copying) claim in federal court
  • For a script that is registered prior to being stolen, or within 3 months of publication (i.e., date it is first made available to the public) – you may recover (i) your actual financial loss; (ii) profits made by the infringement; (iii) attorney’s fees; and (iv) statutory damages (which are provided under federal law)
  • For work that is not registered prior to being stolen, or within 3 months of publication – you may recover (i) your actual financial loss; and (ii) profits made by the infringement
  • You are presumed to be the author of your script if you registered within 5 years of publication (any challenger would need to prove otherwise)

As you can see, there are substantial advantages to registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.  Unlike the WGA, federal copyright registration is required to file a copyright infringement suit and may also entitle you to significant statutory damages and attorney’s fees.  Such damages can range from $750 to $150,000 for each work infringed.  Ultimately the court may decide how much to award based on the following factors:

  • The profits illegally received by the infringer (i.e., copier) through infringement;
  • The revenues lost by the author;
  • The value of the copyrighted work;
  • The deterrent effect to discourage others from infringing;
  • Whether the infringer’s conduct was innocent or willful;
  • Whether the copier has cooperated in providing records of the money illegally received from the infringement; and
  • The potential for discouraging the infringer.

The WGA may provide you with confidentiality at a marginally lower price.  However, registering your script with the U.S. Copyright Office gives you substantially more protection for a significantly longer period for only $15-25 more.  If financially feasible, you may also consider registering your work with both.


The experienced copyright attorneys at Romano Law are ready to help. Contact us at 646-762-7488 or complete this form to speak to a member of our team!

Share This