The Writers Guild of America
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) exists as a labor union for entertainment writers engaged in writing for different types of broadcast programming. The WGA is divided into the WGA West, for areas west of the Mississippi, and WGA East for the eastern seaboard. Beyond its standard function as a union for writers it also allows for certain rights protection for screenplays through its WGA registry. The WGA registry is an entire right institution, being used for written materials around the U.S. as a way of identifying the authorship and ensuring a certain amount of protection.
The Function of the WGA Registry
The WGA registry is a screenwriting registration service to protect the rights of a particular written work to the author, or at least the person who registers it. It does follow the standard Writers Guild of America screenwriting credit system that is particular to the rules of the guild. The WGA registry system works in accordance with the vague principles that govern copyright law. The reality of copyright law is that it is entirely subjective to the situation and parties involved, so it is difficult to give a concrete objective answer to what protection is needed and what rights you have. What the WGA registry does is the same as the basic function of the U.S. copyright office in that it serves as a date and record that you own a specific written work. The WGA registry can then be used as a legal reference in case aspects of the script are used without your consent or credit has been denied.
Difference Between WGA Registry and Copyright
The difference between the rights protected in the WGA registry and having an official copyright registration on your script may seem minor but are very specific. The WGA registry will hold up in court, but it does not necessarily stand as proof of ownership. Instead you must go through the official copyright registration to have that last item of proof. You can also continue to use the WGA registry with normal copyright, or an alternative type of rights protection like copyleft.
Registering With the Writers Guild of America
The WGA registry should be one of the first places that you go before soliciting even a treatment of your script. This will protect you, as the author, and those reading it from a possible lawsuit. You do not have to be a member of the Writers Guild of America to register your script with it, but you should choose correctly between the WGA West and WGA East according to your current location. Thankfully you can now easily register online with either the WGA West or WGA East using an online upload process. Only those listed in the WGA registry, which are the Writers Guild of America recognized authors, will be able to access the documents from the WGA. If you are not a member of the WGA, registering your screenplay will cost you twenty dollars, but for dues paying members in good standing it is only ten.
This post is part of the series: Rights and Protection
Here are articles about rights and protection, such as WGA registration and copyright, around your video, film, and screenwriting projects.