Remember the script leaking of Hateful Eight, the projected new film from famous producer, director, and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino? It was something that has triggered many aspiring filmmakers into questioning how to protect their own work.
Tarantino who is popular for movies such as The Avengers, Django Unchained, and Pulp Fiction, sued the website Gawker on the charges of copyright infringement. According to the BBC, Tarantino decided against filming the movie in response to this and sued for £603,000 against the website.
When a major filmmaker icon such as Tarantino, runs into infringement problems it creates a certainty of doubt for other filmmakers about how well their scripts have been copyrighted. Here are some basic steps to copywriting your script that you may want to follow to ensure your creative property is protected.
After you have written a script that you feel is ready for the big screen, the first thing to do is register the script. This happens similarly to how birth certificates are created for newborn children. Most organisations will require payment for this but there are some art organisations in the UK such as the trade union BECTU that will do this free for members.
You will also need a transaction of property called a chain of title. This is written proof that your intellectual property is in fact owned by you. After you have these documents you will need to send your script along with a submission release to companies you want to produce your work.
Once you submit a script to the production company you choose, they might send your script back with a letter that you must sign. Read through this carefully as it may contain some agreement stating that you will give up your right to sue that company for copyright infringement (like Tarantino) if they create a film that looks like your screenplay.
Whether or not you sign this is up to your own discretion, but whether or not they will read your script might be determined by whether your signature appears on the bottom of that paper or not.
When pitching your idea to any film company the best way to protect yourself from the possibility of the company stealing your ideas is to be prepared with a non-disclosure agreement. This contract ensure that each member of the pitch agrees not to disclose any ideas with anyone else unless otherwise agreed upon.
Every country has different rules for copyrighting, but in London the best place to start your process is to become heavily acquainted with the Intellectual Property Office. This website is sure to answer any specific questions you may have regarding the process. There are also other governmental websites in the United Kingdom that may service you well including the UK Copyright Service and The Script Factory Script Registration Service.
In the same way that you protect your physical property, screenplays are your intellectual property that must also be protected.