How to Get Your Short Film Copyrighted

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Getting a copyright to protect your short film is no different from obtaining any other copyright. Before you begin, keep in mind that a short film is technically copyrighted as soon as it is fixed in a tangible medium. However, registering for copyright protection with the United States Copyright Office is strongly recommended as registration provides many benefits, including the ability to sue for statutory damages and attorneys' fees. After you've obtained copyright registration you may also want to consider adding a copyright notice at the beginning of your film.

Prepare your short film in a digital format so that it can be uploaded to the Copyright Office. Otherwise, place your short film on a DVD, film prints, VHS tape, Betacam SP, or Digibeta tape so that you can mail it to the Copyright Office.

Go to the Copyright Office's website. Obtain a paper copyright application or begin the process of completing a digital copyright application. Online registration is less expensive and faster.

Provide the Copyright Office with all requested information, including your name, contact information, the date your work was first published, the date your work was created and any information related to other authors or claimants involved with the short film. When you are prompted to select a type of work, select, "Motion Picture/Audiovisual Work."

Upload your short film through the Copyright Office's online application or attach your DVD to your paper application. Additionally, you will be required to submit a synopsis of the film such as a shooting script or press book.

Submit your copyright application to the Copyright Office. Pay the applicable filing fee. As of 2012, the fee for online applications is $35 and the fee for paper applications is $65.


  • Although you are not required to put a copyright notice on your film, you should consider placing a notice in order to inform third parties of your rights.


  • Be sure to discuss your copyright application with all interested parties before copyrighting your film. Other contributors might have a claim of authorship. Also, if your short film contains material that can be copyrighted by other parties -- such as songs -- you must obtain clearance to use that material prior to publication.

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