How do I copyright my documentary idea?

by Tim Wells
(Chandler, AZ USA)

Question: I have what I believe to be a very marketable documentary. What would be the process to copyright my idea?

Law Office of Jaia Thomas | Answer:

Copyright does not protect ideas, although it may protect the way ideas are expressed. Ideas cannot be copyrighted because they are not fixed into a tangible medium of expression.

Three requirements must be met in order to obtain copyright protection:

1) Copyrightable subject matter (original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.)

2) An original work

3) Fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as a written or recorded playwright. Therefore, an idea by itself will not receive copyright protection, but only an idea expressed in an artistic form and fixed in a tangible medium.

Alternatively, an idea can be protected through the Writers Guild of America, which documents your authorship on a given date should there be unauthorized usage. The registration provides five years of legal evidence for your material, however, registration may be renewed.

You can register an idea through their website at Each registration submission costs $20 (or $10 for WGA members in good standing).

Jaia ThomasAbout Jaia Thomas

The Law Office of Jaia Thomas is a full-service sports and entertainment law practice.

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Twitter: @jaiathomaslaw

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This content is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice. No recipient of this content should act or refrain from acting on the basis of content without seeking appropriate legal advice or other professional counseling.

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