A screenplay is the written script of a film and it is automatically protected by copyright from the moment you write it down. You are no longer required to place a copyright notice on your work to gain this protection; nevertheless, a properly formatted copyright notice on your screenplay identifies you as the creator of the work and notifies the public that you are actively protecting your work. If anyone tries to publish your screenplay without your permission or claims it as his own, a copyright notice will make it difficult for that person to argue in court that your copyright was infringed unintentionally.
Begin your copyright notice with the letter "c" in lower case. Enclose the letter in parentheses as follows: (c). Alternately, you can spell out the world "Copyright" or write the letter "c" with a circle around it.
Read More: What Is the Correct Form for a Copyright Notice?
Put a blank space after the copyright symbol or word. Following the blank space, add the current year in numerals, such as "2012."
Add a space after the year and then type your legal name or the name of the entity claiming the copyright. Your final copyright notice should appear similar to the following:
(c) 2012 Richard Jones
Add a co-author's name in your copyright notice, if you collaborated on the work with another person. Your co-author's name should follow your name with the word “and” inserted in between. For example: "Richard Jones and Janice Smith."
Append the words "All Rights Reserved" to the copyright notice, if desired. This phrase is no longer required by law and holds no legal weight, but it is still used in many modern copyright notices. Your copyright notice will read:
(c) 2012 Richard Jones. All rights reserved.
Place the copyright notice on your screenplay at the bottom of the title page. The notice may be placed in other locations within your script, but many sample screenplays show the preferred location of the copyright notice is the bottom of the title page.
You may face claims by people infringing your screenplay copyright that the infringers could not identify or locate you; therefore, your screenplay is an "orphaned work" and thus available for public use.
There are two prevailing points of view on inclusion of copyright notices in screenplays. Some screenwriters view use of the mark as indicative of an inexperienced and mistrustful screenwriter. Others believe inclusion of a copyright notice is a good idea.
If you write a script on assignment for a studio or other organization, the organization that hired you will usually own the copyright to the script.
- U.S. Copyright Office: Copyright Notice
- Intellectual Property: Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights; Richard Stim, J.D.
- Iusmentis.com: The Phrase "All Rights Reserved"
- U.S. Copyright Office: Copyright Registration for Motion Pictures, Including Video Recordings
- U.S. Copyright Office: Orphaned Works Comment
- U.S. Copyright Office: Report on Orphaned Works
Robin Elizabeth Margolis is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area. She has been writing about health care, science, nutrition, fitness and law since 1988, and served as the editor of a health law newsletter. Margolis holds a bachelor of arts degree in biology, a master's degree in counseling and a paralegal certificate.