Can you copyright a treatment? Yes, you can copyright a treatment–at least if you’re in the US.
Let’s look at when and why you might want to copyright a treatment and how to do it.
When and Why Would You Copyright a Treatment?
You don’t need to copyright a treatment you’ve written for yourself as part of your own prep. That may seem obvious to some of you, but I’ve seen new writers tie themselves in knots (and waste money) worrying about this sort of thing, so I’m spelling it out explicitly. You don’t need to copyright anything you’ve written until you’re showing it to industry people. (And if you feel compelled to copyright your work before you share it with friends for feedback, you really need to reconsider who you call your friends.)
On the other hand you may want to copyright a treatment if you’re sending it out as part of a script pitch or script development process.
How to Copyright a Treatment
To register a treatment with the US Copyright Office’s online registration service, go to Copyright.gov.
[I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, etc. If you look around the US Copyright Office website, you’ll find plenty of information straight from the horse’s mouth.]
I’d love to hear from our writers in other countries about if and how you can copyright treatments where you are, too. And if any entertainment attorneys are reading this and would care to weigh in, we always appreciate your expertise.
This article is the final installment (for the moment) in our series on writing treatments. You can read the series from the beginning starting here: What is a Treatment. I’ll update the series in the future as I come across more good resources. If you have any outstanding questions about writing treatments, let me know. I hope you’ll feel more confident and better equipped to write treatments as part of your own prep and for pitching projects in the future.