Copyright protection for independent film should begin with its treatments, outlines, and script. It’s in these early documents that the filmmaker’s unprotectable ideas become “fixed in a tangible medium“—the moment that they change from being something anyone might have and something that only the author can claim. You can’t protect a mere idea with copyright, only the expression of the idea.
Ideas about how to protect those expressions, however, are abundant among indie producers, and they are all too often wrong. One persistent notion is the so-called “poor man’s copyright”. It’s the idea that mailing a copy of your completed script to yourself in a sealed envelope and never opening it until needed is irrefutable proof that the work inside belonged exclusively to you as of the date shown by the postmark. Copyright protection forever for the price of a Forever stamp is the thinking. (more…)