If you’ve written and finished a screenplay, it’s only natural to feel happy, excited, and maybe even a little bit worried. In the world of entertainment, protecting your intellectual property is one of the most important things you can do. If you plan to sell your script, it’s very important to take your copyright seriously.
One of the best ways to protect your screenplay is to register it with the United States Copyright Office. But can you protect the title of your movie, in addition to the screenplay? Is it possible to prevent anyone else from using the great title you’ve written?
What is Copyright Registration?
Before we talk about titles, it’s important to understand what copyright registration actually is. When you write a screenplay, you own the copyright to that work. You can bring a civil case against someone if they infringe on your copyright.
However, copyright registration provides additional protections and benefits (such as the potential for additional compensation) if you register before any infringement takes place. If you wait on registration and someone uses your work without permission, you will need to register your copyright before you can file a lawsuit anyway.
Is it Possible to Copyright a Movie Title?
You can and should register your screenplay with the federal copyright office. Titles, on the other hand, can’t be copyrighted. There are lots of movies using the same title as another film.
Don’t worry too much about protecting the perfect screenplay title. The reality is that if you sell your screenplay, the studio might choose to change the title anyway. Even if you think you have the perfect title for the movie in your head, directors and marketing executives might see things differently.
The one way you can protect a title is by trademarking the name of a movie series, like the “Harry Potter” movies. This is different from copyright registration, and it requires that you make at least two movies within a certain timeframe. For most people looking to protect a movie title, this situation doesn’t apply.
Should You Pursue a Trademark?
If you really love your title, then you might be wondering if it’s worth pursuing a trademark for a series. Generally, the answer is no. It’s expensive and time-consuming to get a trademark, especially when you consider that you need to actually produce at least two movies within a short period of time. A trademark really only makes sense when you’ve already made the first movie in a series.
If you’d like to know more about copyright, trademarks, and the legal side of protecting or selling a screenplay, give our Beverly Hills law firm a call at 323-230-6200. We can help you through every step of the process. Our Southern California entertainment attorneys can help you understand what’s realistic and how to keep your intellectual property safe.