How do I Copyright a Movie?

G. Wiesen

The way in which you copyright a movie depends a great deal upon where you live since the government of the country in which you live and seek to copyright your movie determines the copyright laws. In the US, for example, a work of art, such as a movie, is protected under copyright laws from the moment it is made. If you make a movie in the US, that movie is automatically protected by copyright laws, and you as the filmmaker, or a studio that is in charge of the production, owns the copyright as soon as the film is made. To copyright a movie in a more legally acknowledged way, however, you simply need to register the film with the US Copyright Office.

Filmmakers typically copyright their work.
Filmmakers typically copyright their work.

A major misconception among many people when it comes to copyrighting any type of artistic work is that a legal process must be followed in order to gain copyright protection. Since 1976, in the US, any work of art is immediately protected by copyright laws and considered the intellectual property of an artist as soon as it is created. This is true of works of literature, paintings, audio recordings, and films. Effectively, in order to copyright a movie all you have to do is make the movie.

You may want to copyright a movie more officially, however, by registering the movie with the US Copyright Office. This will ensure that the copyright for the movie is acknowledged by the US government, which will allow you to more effectively pursue action against people who infringe upon your copyright; it also helps prove when your copyright protection was established. Even though you can copyright a movie simply by making it, you may need to be able to prove when you made the movie and when your copyright protection began. This is especially important in situations in which the legitimacy of two similar or identical works may be in contention.

To copyright a movie officially with the US government, you can simply register the movie with the US Copyright Office. There are three distinct ways you can do this: through a simple process of registration online at the website for the US Copyright Office, through filling out an automatic registration form and mailing it to the office, or by manually filling out a form and mailing it. All three methods to copyright a movie require you fill out registration forms of some sort, pay a registration fee, and provide the Copyright Office with a copy of your film. Electronic registration through the website is quite a bit less expensive than the other two methods, though all three are fairly easy and affordable.

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