How to register a screenplay isn’t as complex as it may seem.
Because when everything is done you might just need to sue some dude, here is a quick rundown of the two most used script registration services.
Library of Congress, U.S. Copyright Office
Why?: Probably the first one you should check out for your script registration.
I suggest you use the online registration. It’s cheaper, trackable, and faster.
Why not?: This services should be used for actual finished script registration, not treatments or drafts. This is for script copyright, not broad unfinished ideas.
Duration: The life of the author plus an additional 70 years
$35 for via the online service
$45 with paper forms
WGA’s Script Registry Service
Why?: The most popular of all script registration services.
Registrable material is anything that can assist you “documenting the creation of your work” (scripts, treatments, synopses, outlines, etc.).
Why not?: As stated on their website:
Registering your work with the WGAW Registry does not take the place of registering with the Library of Congress, U.S. Copyright Office.
Also, once material is registered, the file cannot be changed in any way.
Duration: 5 Years (renewable)
$20 for the general public
$10 for WGA members
It is still debatable as to which of the two should be used primarily, or if registering to both at the same time is useful.
It is clear though that both can be used in court.
Depending on how much dough you are willing to shed for the protection of your work, two is better than one obviously. If you intend to register at both, I would suggest starting with the Copyright Office, and while waiting for the paperwork (it generally takes some time to come) go register to the WGA.
Let’s note however that none of these services are International-proof. Protecting your material via these services will only work the in States.