Shannon Muir's Animated Insights





By Shannon Muir


Currently exclusive to this site




DISCLAIMER:  All information contained within this article is for general information only.  Readers should check with their own attorneys for advice specific to their situations.  Also, at the time of this article M. Christine Valada was only licensed to practice law in California , not in other states where law may vary (and since this article has ceased practicing).  Although Copyright is Federal law,, various circuits may have interpreted the law differently and Copyright laws also vary internationally.




SHANNON MUIR: Why would an animation writer need to register material with the WGAw (Writers Guild of America, west) or copyright it, anyway?


M. CHRISTINE VALADA: There are several reasons:  one, to establish evidence that material existed by a certain date (generally before someone else claims to have created similar material)  two, to preserve remedies in litigation, and three, to be able to file a theft of idea or copyright infringement claim.


SM: What is the difference between WGAw registration and copyrighting?


MCV: When we talk about "copyrighting," we mean registering a copyright with the Copyright Office to preserve certain remedies in case of infringement.  Since January 1, 1978 , copyright vests with the original creator (except for works made for hire).  Both the WGA and Copyright Office procedures help to establish the date of creation, but only registering with the Copyright Office will preserve the remedies, with include statutory damages and the ability to ask for attorneys fees, if registration occurs before an infringement.


SM:  Don't they do the same thing?


MCV: Not really.  The WGAw registration really is about creating evidence.  The Copyright Office registration will do that and more, since you need to have a registration in order to file a copyright infringement law suit, and that registration entitltes you to the remedies of statutory damages and attorneys fees rather than limiting you to actual damages, which is all you get when you register after the infringement takes place.  Keep in mind that you must file a registration to file suit in Federal Court, so it's better to do it earlier than later.

SM:  Is there an advantage to do both, or will just one do?


MCV: If you can afford to, do both.  If you can't, I'd choose the Federal copyright registration route.  Theft of idea cases, which are quasi-contract actions, are being removed to Federal Court by defendants who claim that if anything is in writing, it's a copyright claim and there is Federal preemption (this doesn't always work, but it might).  It's better to be able to face that straight on by having your registration in place.


Thanks, Christine.  I think this will help a lot of people figuring out where to start researching what the best choice (or choices) are for them in protecting their intellectual property.





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