Copyright Infringement Lawyers for Screenwriters
Has someone stolen your script and sold it to a studio? Did you see a movie that strongly resembled a screenplay you wrote? Has your hard work been used without your permission or compensation, in violation of your copyright? Call the US Copyright Attorneys at Sanders Law Group, to discuss your legal rights and remedies.
Copyright Infringement of Your Screenplay
When you are involved in the film industry or television industry, you know the final product seen by the public is based on the work of screenwriters and scriptwriters. Screenwriters create original, creative, detailed scripts that become the starting point for various types of entertainment.
Copyright automatically attaches to a screenplay the moment it gets created. The writer holds a valid copyright to their work. Both scripts and screenplays fall into the category of “works of the performing arts.”
When someone wants to use your screenplay to bring your words to life, which is often the goal of a screenwriter, what happens to your rights?
Usually, a producer and screenwriter enter into an agreement that gives the producer the exclusive rights to use the script. All screenwriters should have experienced lawyers helping to negotiate the terms of these agreements. The details of any “option” agreement are critical to ensuring you – the screenwriter – receives appropriate compensation. This is the best way to make sure you understand the rights and obligations of each party, and you receive fair pay for your hard work.
How Copyright Infringement Can Occur with Screenwriting
What happens when you learn your copyrighted script was used to create a film or show without your permission? Did you see a substantially similar movie to a script you created? Did you show someone a screenplay and find out they reproduced a large portion of it and sold it to a studio claiming it as their own?
If these or similar events have happened, you may have a copyright infringement claim. You might be entitled to substantial damages under the law.
Call our copyright lawyers at Sanders Law Group. Our copyright infringement lawyers help screenwriters nationwide and across the globe fight copyright infringement.
Violations of Your Copyright Can Cause Financial Harm
Writing a screenplay is not easy. Writing a script is hard work that requires dedication, time, and creativity. Creating something that a studio or producer wants to buy and make into a movie or show is a whole other level of difficulty. For every screenwriter out there, who gets their “big break,” many others struggle to secure fair compensation for their hard work.
Sanders Law Group understands the importance of getting paid for your work. In a competitive field like screenwriting, you deserve every penny you can earn for your screenplays and scripts. Your copyrighted work means you can control the narrative. You should get to decide who may or may not reproduce or create something using your screenplay.
If someone does so without your permission, an agreement, or compensation, that party might be depriving you of earning a living and devaluing your work. You may be able to file a copyright infringement claim and collect substantial damages.
Protect Your Rights Without Paying Large Upfront Cost
At Sanders Law Group, our US Copyright attorneys work hard to protect the rights of all creative artists. We do most of our work on a contingency basis. What does that mean for you?
It means there are no out-of-pocket expenses for you to bring your copyright infringement case. It means that we get paid when you get paid.
Our practice of doing this work on a contingency fee basis allows us to help many creative artists, like screenwriters, who would not otherwise be able to afford the cost of hiring copyright representation. This model allows us to represent clients who need help protecting their rights to ownership and compensation for their creative work.
We are here to solve problems for creative artists, not create them.
Protecting Your Screenplay by Registering with the US Copyright Office
Copyright does not protect your ideas. But copyright does protect the expression of those ideas. Your concept is not protected, but the work you create with those ideas and concepts is.
Under the US Copyright Act, copyright attaches to your work automatically as soon as you create something tangible.
If you want to maximize the protection of your legal rights, the best thing to do is register your script or treatment with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Copyright registration is necessary before filing a copyright infringement lawsuit.
The Copyright Act allows you to collect two types of damages: actual and statutory. Actual damages are the amount of your monetary losses because of the infringement. They can be difficult to calculate. Statutory damages are established by the court and range up to $150,000 per infringement. Statutory damages may be greater than actual damages, and actual damages may be a challenge to calculate.
You can only receive actual damages for anything that took place before the registration. You can collect statutory damages only for infringements that occur after you register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. Accordingly, it is generally advisable to file your copyright registration sooner, rather than later.
Does Registering Your Screenplay with WGA Protect Your Copyright?
Many screenwriters register their scripts with the Writers Guild of America (WGA). The WGA is a labor union that works to ensure writers receive insurance, fair compensation, and benefits. The WGA maintains a registry of scripts that writers can use to demonstrate proof of ownership of their work.
Registering with the WGA does not provide an avenue for enforcing your rights to the script or seeking legal remedies. Therefore, you should still register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office in case you ever want to file a copyright infringement lawsuit.
What Are Some Issues to Consider in Screenplay Copyright Litigation?
As with many copyright cases, infringement claims involving screenplays and scripts are often decided on a case-by-case basis after the court has weighed various factors. To prove a copyright infringement case involving this type of work, the screenwriter must show:
- The infringer had access to the infringed-upon material
- There is substantial similarity in ideas
- There is substantial similarity in expression
The court generally reviews the plot, dialogue, mood, setting, theme, pace, and sequence to determine whether there is a substantial similarity of ideas.
To determine a similarity of expression, the court uses a “reasonableness” test. Could an ordinary reasonable person consider them similar?
Again, each case is different and has unique facts and circumstances. Having our U.S. Copyright Attorneys representing you can ensure your rights are protected, and all legal remedies are pursued.
The Bottom Line: You Should Get Paid For Your Work
We know how difficult it is to complete a screenplay. It might take several months or several years to finish a writing project. The amount of emotion and creativity you put into your work can be enormous.
Shouldn’t you get paid for all of your efforts?
You need to protect your legal rights. Whether negotiating a fair agreement to sell your work or filing a copyright infringement lawsuit if someone steals it, our goal is to see that you receive the maximum compensation and legal damages the laws allow.