A lawyer contacted me to help him promote his services. He helps writers register their works with the US Copyright Office
Huh. I wasn't aware screenwriters need help registering their screenplays with the copyright office, I sez. Isn't it just a Form PA
? And the instructions are on the form!
Well, replies Mr. Lawyer Man, sometimes it is a form TX, and sometimes it is a "work for hire."
If it's a work for hire, sez I, then why is the writer handling the copyright registration, being as the person commissioning the work for hire owns the copyright?
Didn't hear back.
Folks, so far as I know, all you need to register your screenplay with the US Copyright Office is a Form PA. The form is super simple.
[[UPDATE: In fact, as faithful reader Eltan Loewenstein informs me, it's now online and only costs $40
For what you need to know about copyright, you can check out pages 229 and following in Crafty Screenwriting. The prices have gone up a lot. The logic has not.
I don't see why you need a lawyer. Just register your script.
Frankly, I haven't registered a script in a long time. If someone were to steal my script, I'd call in my agent, and the 30 other people who read my script, to give evidence that it's my script. But if you're nervous, you can file your form PA.
You can also register your script online with the WGA. That costs $20, and lasts for 5 years. In five years, your script will probably have aged out, or you won't like it any more. However, registering a script with the WGA has important legal differences (outlined in my book) from registering it with the Copyright Offices. The Copyright Office is much better from a legal point of view.