Writers listen up! You must protect your work! After all, you’ve worked very hard on it. Protect it as if it were your child. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created; however to bring a lawsuit for infringement it must be registered with the Government www.copyright.gov.
I talk to many writers that tell me they protect their work by registering it with the Writer’s Guild East & West, and that’s cool, but you must take it a step further and register your work with the Government and here’s why!
Registering with the Guild only gives you a claim of priority ownership of your work. This means it doesn’t have statutory protection (you can’t take legal action if someone steals your work). The Guild only provides evidence of your claim, along with the date of completion, similar to the Poor Man’s Copyright (mailing a copy of your work to yourself and not opening it until court). With the government you have statutory protection.
The Guild’s protection is only valid for 10 years. The Government’s protection is valid for your lifetime plus 70 years.
The cost with the Guild is $25 for registration; the Government is $35 using eCO (electronic copyright office). With both source once you upload your work and finish the registration process you are protected.
The Guild protects your titles, ideas (this is HUGE), outlines, treatments, synopsis, and scenario. The Government does not protect these only the work itself.
So before you pitch that great idea or start to put it out there make sure your work stays your work.