Advice needed on copyrighting a show

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  • I've been making a small series of shows and I've been trying to figure out the best way to copyright the show.

    The show is completely improvised, so there aren't any scripts, but the setting and style of the show are unique and should be open to copyright. The shows that have been recorded are similar to the prototype of a cartoon, so there aren't any real people, just voices. However, somewhat modified, copyrighted charachters are being used to represent my own charachters in the show. These charachters have different names, voices and personalities, and the situations that take place on the show are completely different from the "borrowed" charachters. I will be replacing the look of the charachters soon, once I finish designing them. As far as I know, copyright can't actually protect a charachter anyway.

    I'm wondering if I should send a DVD of my shows, with a performing arts form and mention the copyrighted charachters in the "Material Added to This Work" (in which copyright is claimed) on 6b of the form?

    I was also thinking, when I finish the charachters if I should copyright them through a visual arts form, and then also copyright the show seperately?

    Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!
  • Hm. It's difficult to say without knowing a bit more.

    Assuming the US, generally actual expression is copyrighted automatically once it's in fixed format. So you're protected when you record the work. You don't have to register copyright unless you want to be able to sue somebody for using the work.

    You get into murkier waters when you talk about "style" and "setting," particularly using borrowed characters (like in machinima, for example). There's a chance that these concepts are not copyrightable.

    You can't copyright a general type of character (ie, the gruff detective, the mad doctor, etc.) but characters themselves are likely protected by copyright (Xena, Archie Bunker, Pikachu).

    Also, the look of the characters you are using, if created by someone else, are protected by copyright, so your use of them will need to fit an exemption in the first place. When you're using characters like that, you also might need to worry about Trademark as well as copyright.

    Next, what do you mean by "style?"

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