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Once you have created a script, you might want to share it with the world and gain exposure. However, you may be unaware of the copyright protections and benefits you can gain from your script, and how to protect them. Copyright infringement may mean that someone else copies and uses your script without your permission, taking profits and credit from you. Additionally, they might even damage your reputation. Therefore, it is best to understand copyright protections for your script. This article will explain copyright protection, and will provide two tips for protecting your script.

Copyright

In New Zealand, any script you write automatically gains copyright protection. Works that are protected by copyright include:

  • literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works; 
  • the typographical layout of published editions; 
  • sound recordings; 
  • films; and 
  • communication works.

Your script is a literary work, and therefore has copyright protection.

Copyright is an automatic intellectual property right in New Zealand. That means that as a copyright owner, you have rights and protections as soon as you create your script. These are:

  • exclusive use of your script;
  • the right to determine who else can use your script; and 
  • legal protection.

It is important to remember that copyright only protects the material expression of your idea, not the idea itself. For example, if somebody copied your script word-for-word, that would constitute copyright infringement. However, if they write about a similar idea or subject matter, it likely will not be copyright infringement. 

Moral Rights

In addition to legal protection, you will gain moral rights as a copyright owner. Unlike legal protection, moral rights remain regardless of who owns the copyright in your work. For example, if you sell your copyright, you still keep moral rights. Moral rights are the right:

  • to be attributed. This is the right to be credited as the author of your script; 
  • against false attribution. This is the right not to be credited to a script that is not yours; and 
  • against derogatory treatment. This means that your work should not be harmed or altered in a way that negatively impacts your reputation. 

Registering Your Script 

Normally, you cannot register your copyright. There are no universal databases for copyright protected material, making it difficult to declare your ownership. However, the New Zealand Writers Guild (NZWG) is a service that allows you to register your script formally. They run a Script Registration service which is open to writers of original written works. Original written works include:

  • scripts;
  • screenplays; 
  • treatments;
  • proposals for TV;
  • films;
  • new media;
  • plays; and
  • documentaries.

This service allows you to assert ownership over your script. This will provide you with physical proof of completion and ownership should somebody infringe on your copyright.

NZWG only accepts developed ideas for registration. This means that work must be complete and not just an outline of your idea. Only one author may register the script with NZWG. Registration with NZWG lasts for ten years and then can be renewed. 

Labelling Your Script

Once your script is registered, you may feel more comfortable sharing it with others. However, even with registration, your script is vulnerable to infringement. Therefore, you may want to protect your script even further. You can use the copyright labels on your script so that others are aware that you own the copyright and are willing to enforce it. You can use the © symbol to do this, or use a copyright notice at the bottom of your material. 

For example, COPYRIGHT 2021 LEGALVISION PTY LTD is a copyright notice. 

It is important to label your script once you start sharing it, so others know that you own it.

Key Takeaways

As a script writer, you want to make sure your work is safe from anyone looking to copy your hard work. Copyright protection can help significantly with this. Registering your script with the NZWG and using copyright notices can help signal your ownership to others. However, even with these steps, others may still try to copy your work. You may have to enforce your copyright with legal steps. If you need assistance with protecting your script, LegalVision’s experienced IP lawyers can help you. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cost of registering a work with NZWG?

For NZWG members, it costs $35. For non-members, it costs $70.

What should I do after protecting my script?

Even with these steps, your script may be vulnerable to infringement. If this occurs, seek legal advice.

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