Writing Plays/Screenwriting/Copywriting your play


Good afternoon,
   I have been taking a  private play writing class for about four years now.  I am finally at a stage where I think my work is good enough to enter into "one act festivals" at local playhouse community theatres.
    I am a little weary about sending my plays out in public without a 'copyright".  How do I protect my work?  Do I have to copyright each play separately, or can I just get a copyright for my work as a person (or company)?
    Please let me know.  I would really like to begin to submit work, but don't want it stolen in the process.
   Thank your for your time and consideration in this matter.

Hi, Della.  If you feel confident that your work is good enough to be produced anywhere, either at local playhouses or community theatres or any where else, then it is good enough to be copyrighted.  In fact, you should copyright all your work as you will never know when it might be discovered by someone who has clout in "the business" who would like to have it produced.  The copyright gives you a lot of power and shows the theatre you are a professional.  With the copyright, you have all rights to negotiate a contract with the theatre, whereas without one, you most likely will end up with no contract at all and be at the whims of the theatre which produces your work.  My previous explanation alone should tell you that you are right in being leary of sending out your work without a copyright.  Your leariness shows me your wisdom.  Copyrighting your work is the best way to protect your work, but you must do something else, as well.  Before submitting your work to a theatre or a theatre professional, you should check to see if that theatre or professional is legitimate and also, if they are, whether they plan to give you a bum stear.  Unfortunately in the theatre, as with any other industry, even those who are established as legitimate professionals in their respective fields can be very uncouth.  One thing I can never express enough to anyone going into any industry whatsoever is the following (and to emphasize it for you I will type it in capital letters): NEVER APPEAR NEEDY.  And also, never put on a false appearance of not being needy because you feel needy inside. Any industry, especially theatre and film, is full of sharks which prey on people who appear needy or put on a false show of not being needy.   So, to best protect your work, you must also have 100% confidence in your work and yourself as a professional; however,  if you don't have that much confidence at this time, you must use the wisdom you have, to determine who in the business you can fully trust as you navigate the highway that leads to the production of your work.  You can copyright each work seperately or copyright them together as an anthology.  You can do either legally.  Aesthetically, an anthology will work best if each play in the anthology has something in common with each other.  If you do decide to copyright your work as an anthology and all the plays in it have something in common with each other, you will be seen as twice the professional by any legitimate theatre or thespian and, being seen as such, your work will be twice protected.  You can copyright it as a person, too.  You do have to pay per copyright, but if you do get one, you can get a royalty, if you negotiate your contract well enough, from any theatre in which you want to see your work produced, community or otherwise, that far exceeds the price you paid to copyright it.

Oh, yes.  One more thing.  There is a myth going around in the literary world that if you place a copyright on your work the people you send your work to will feel you don't trust them.  This is a myth, most likely started by one of the sharks I mentioned, and is spread by amateurs.  Do not listen to this.  IT'S WRONG and can be harmful your work and even to you financially and career-wise down the road.  As with any information, one should always use critical thinking skills before taking what you hear about and in this industry as de facto truth.

If you want to know how to copyright your plays, and any other information about such literary copyrights, themselves, feel free to e-mail me at JimKelley102@Yahoo.com, I will enthusiastically send you the information for free. Copyrighting one's work is that important.


Writing Plays/Screenwriting

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


James Edward Kelley


I cannot answer questions about writing screenplays. I can, however, answer questions about playwriting.


I won the Henry Fonda Young Playwright's Award for the first play I ever wrote. Faculty at Brown University allowed me to take free writing courses, resulting in two play commissions. I was an actor-in-residence at Brown University's Rites & Reason Theatre. I was a member of a comedy troupe called Daydream Theatre. I was a professional stage actor for a spell. I got into Mensa through my score on the Miller's Analogy Test, a verbal skills test you can take after receiving your Bachelor's Degree.


On-line literary journal, "Slurve"; "The Mensa Bulletin"

I was allowed to take free writing courses at Brown University. I'm currently enrolled in The Gotham Writers Workshop.

Awards and Honors
Henry Fonda Young Playwright's Award, nominated for Expert of the Month

©2017 About.com. All rights reserved.