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There is no provision in South African law to register ones copyright, other than copyright in a film as defined in the Copyright Act. What that means is that there is no copyright on an idea. It has to be written out to a minimum of synopsis length, and has to give a good outline of your characters, the problems they face and how they resolve their challenge. In other words, the more detail you put on paper, the better your chance of proving that a particular work is your Intellectual Property. The WGSA Script Registry allows you to lodge your synopsis, treatment and/or screenplay in a safe environment, and have it registered to your name on the date and time you submit it. This holds up in court as proof of ownership of the work as lodged. If you suspect that your work has been plagiarised , the copy you submitted to the registry will be compared to the work of the other party, and similarities in the story and character arcs as well as dialogue will be evaluated. Just changing names of characters and places is no longer sufficient to misappropriate a script or screenplay, and courts both locally and internationally have ruled very hard against people trying to steal other writers’ Intellectual Property.

Copyright arises automatically when you create your script or story. It does not have to be formally registered in order to come into effect. For a work to be eligible for copyright protection however it MUST be written down, recorded, and be reduced to material form. Should there be a dispute as to who is the owner of the copyright in a certain script or story; you need to be in a position to prove that you are the owner.

There are different ways in which you can create this kind of proof, with some not as effective as others:

  1. You can register your script with the WGSA Script Registry. (see info in the question above).
  2. You can include the copyright sign ©, on every page of your work followed by your full name and the year of creation.
  3. You can register your script with CIPRO info@cipro.gov.za
  4. You can post your signed work to yourself, and keep it in a sealed envelope. This is a form of proof that the work was created by you before the date stamp on the envelope.
  5. You can get a Commissioner of Oaths to stamp and date every page or every second page. You can do this by going to your neighbourhood police station.
  6. Do not email your script or story to potential producers without any protection. Once it has been received via email, it is easy for an unscrupulous person to make small changes to the script, and then claim it as their own work. ALWAYS back up your sent emails.

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