DuckHole, Inc. is the copyright assignee in a treatment for a television series entitled “Pets,” created by Paul J. Andre in 2010. Mr. Andre, however, did the unthinkable: he registered his treatment with the Writers Guild of America. WRITERS, repeat after me: I WILL NOT WASTE MY MONEY REGISTERING MY WRITTEN WORK WITH THE WGA or SAG. I WILL FILE A COPYRIGHT REGISTRATION APPLICATION INSTEAD.
Why pay for a WGA registration when it affords no significant protection in court? In fact, the WGA shreds your submission after five years and is absolutely useless if the infringement begins in the sixth year.
- To avail yourself of the advantages available under the law, you must register your screenplay, treatment, or script with the U.S. Copyright Office.
- In order to file a lawsuit to prevent copying of your work, you MUST have registered the work with the U.S. Copyright Office.
- In order to recover statutory damages and attorneys’ fees from infringers, the work must have been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office before the commencement of the infringement or within three months from the date of publication. 17 U.S.C. § 412.
- In order to establish evidence of ownership of the screenplay, treatment, or script, the work must have been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
I cannot emphasize the importance of filing your work of authorship with the U.S. Copyright Office. In fact, if you can only afford to register the work with one entity, it should be the U.S. Copyright Office in order to avail yourself to the advantages afforded by a copyright registration certificate.
Judging from the absence of a copyright registration number in the complaint, DuckHole probably only recently filed the copyright application in order to bring suit. DuckHole alleges that NBC’s Animal Practice TV series is “substantially identical and, at best, a derivative work of PETS, which is based on an original copyrighted PETS treatment owned and registered to Plaintiff.” For example, Plaintiff claims that Animal practice’s “concept of centering on a veterinarian that is good with animals but not so good with people, and the setting in a veterinarian clinic are substantially identical, and at least derivative of the concept and setting” in the treatment. The complaint continues:
The supporting characters in the copyrighted PETS treatment include: (i) David- the veterinarian’s colleague and “best ‘human’ friend” who “is woefully inadequate at the dating scene,” (ii) Peg- the “hard-as-nail” employee of the clinic, (iii) Brenda- a “clueless” assistant at the clinic, and (iv) Bud- the resident pet at the clinic. The supporting characters in the Series Animal Practice include: (i) Doug- the veterinarian’s colleague and “closest ‘human’ friend” who is “hapless in matters of the heart,” (ii) Juanita- the “take-charge” clinic employee, (iii) Angela- an “eccentric” assistant at the clinic, and (iv) Dr. Rizzo- the resident pet at the clinic. The Series supporting characters are substantially identical, and at least derivative of the supporting characters in PETS.
Assuming NBC had access, without reviewing the treatment and the series in their entirety, it is difficult to predict whether these references are unprotectable general themes of a veterinarian’s office or whether they share articulable similarities between plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters, and sequence of events.
The case is DuckHole, Inc. v. NBCUniversal Media LLC, et al., CV12-10077 JAK (C.D. Cal. 2012).