How Long Does it Take to Copyright a Screenplay

How Long Does it Take to Copyright a Screenplay?

Applying for a copyright for your screenplay is a recommended step after you’ve outlined the idea in full and prepared your script treatment. An entire screenplay is not necessary in order to apply for a U.S. Copyright. But a fully fleshed out idea that includes characters and the primary points of your story either in a treatment or synopsis form is necessary. If you know that obtaining a copyright is an important step that you should take after you’ve written your screenplay, you might be wondering. How long does it take to copyright a screenplay?


Applying for a copyright that will protect your screenplay is a relatively simple process. It begins with creating a username and password at the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) Registration System at the U.S. Copyright Office. 

Upon registering for access to the system, you can begin the application process to obtain your screenplay copyright, but how long does it take to copyright a screenplay once the application has been filled out and submitted?

Copyright Registration Processing Times

Screenplay copyright registration processing times vary depending on when you submit the screenplay copyright.

Historically, claims that were made online without any need for correspondence with the copyright office would be processed in an average of 7 months.

With mail-in claims taking up to 60 days more on average and correspondence requiring an additional 60-90 days.

However recent updates and improvements to technology have made registering a screenplay copyright streamlined and even faster. 

Average Processing Time

The average processing time for a screenplay copyright registration is currently 3.1 months. You fill out applications online. And include a digital deposit upload generally process within 1.9 months on average.

In fact, nearly 80% of all online screenplay copyright applications can be processed in under 2 months on average. Mail in applications, and those that require additional correspondence can add several months to the screenplay copyright registration process. 

Tips for Fast Copyright Processing

Various factors influence the total processing time involved and may impact the outcome of your screenplay copyright application. Keep in mind that the fastest possible processing of a screenplay copyright registration will take place online, NOT by mail.

Additionally, follow these tips to ensure fast processing of your copyright registration:

  • Submit your deposit online along with your online screenplay registration application. Submitting deposits by mail will extend processing times.
  • Upload an electronic copy of your screenplay with your copyright registration. Submitting a hard copy will greatly extend processing times.
  • Failure to respond to correspondence from the U.S. Copyright Office in a timely manner will further delay processing times. All correspondence from the U.S. Copyright Office must receive a response within 45 days after the message was sent. 

So, how long does it take to copyright a screenplay?

On average, your screenplay copyright registration should process within approximately 60 days from the time you submit it online unless there is additional correspondence required.

For fastest processing, make sure that you apply online, use an electronic submission of your screenplay, and provide a full and complete application for copyright as well as complete, electronic payment submission.

Failure to submit all required documentation, and payment, online could result in longer processing times for your screenplay copyright.

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