Protecting your hard work with a copyright is important to keeping it from being stolen by others who did not spend the time creating it like you did. In order to understand copyright protection, you must know a little about copyrights:
How a copyright works
The copyright is owned exclusively by the author of the work, unless written permission is granted to other individuals. If you sign over the complete work to someone else, they become the copyright owner and can do what they wish with your work. Many companies have people working for them that create the work and are unsure of who the real copyright owner is. "Work for hire" is considered any work done by an employee of an organization. The employee is the copyright owner, however your company may require signed documentation that states all work created by that employee is owned and copyrighted by the company.
There are several reasons to copyright your work. If anyone has duplicated or stolen any piece of your work, you have the right to file a lawsuit against that person. In order to take legal action, you must register your work at the U.S. Copyright Office. The U.S. Copyright Office will send you a certification of registration showing you have physical proof of legal protection to your work.
By registering your copyright, it will also hold up in other countries that have established a copyright agreement with the United States. If you should choose not to register your copyright, you can still use the copyright sign or copyright symbol to inform people that you are aware of your legal rights.
What does a copyright protect?
A copyright will protect the work you create. Here are the works that you can copyright:
Literary, dramatic, and musical works
Graphics and pictures
Computer programs, and HTML coding
What is not protected by copyrights?
There are some works that are not protected by copyright laws:
Works that have not been recorded or written down
Slogans, names, short phrases, titles, designs, coloring, and ingredients or contents.
Ideas, discoveries, methods, systems, concepts, and processes
Common property that does not contain original authorship such as calendars, weight charts, tape measures, rulers, height charts.
How to register for a copyright
Step # 1 - You will go to the U.S. Copyright office and fill out a copyright application form. You can also download this form from their website at www.copyright.gov
This application needs to be filled out as accurately as possible; if you fail to completely fill out the application it will be returned.
Helpful Resources: US Copyright Office
The United States Copyright Office has provided this web site filled with information about copyright laws, how to copyright your material, pre-registration copyright information and many other things pertaining to copyrights.
This article provides information about copyright laws. It discusses several steps you can take to register your copyright and protect your work. It also provides an address that you can mail in your copyright.
This web site discusses copyright information and how the libraries and archives must keep records of copyrights to preserve an artists' copyright. It also discusses what term "fair use" is.
This article discusses what a copyright is and how you can take proper steps to ensure your material is copyrighted. It discusses how a copyright symbol is helpful and what the proper form of a copyright symbol is.
Digital Preservation Act
This web site discusses the Digital Preservation Act. It discusses how the Library of Congress preserves copyrights for artists' and the stipulations the library is held to for preserving copyrights.
Protecting your Copyright
This article provides information about how you can protect your copyright and what the purpose of a copyright is. It also provides a good example of how someone can steal your work and what you can do to defend your work.
This web site provides information about copyright infringement and how you can protect your work from being stolen. It also discusses the actions you can take if your material has been illegally copied.
This web site provides information about copyright infringement. It provides a brief overview and also provides specific examples of copyright infringement. It also discusses what piracy is and how it pertains to copyright laws.
Copyright for the Web
This web site provides information about copyright information for the web. It discusses what can be copyrighted and what actions can be taken if you suspect copyright infringement of your material.
Copyright Infringement for Artists
This web site provides great information about copyright infringement for artists. It discusses the several aspects of art that qualify for copyright infringement such as: photographs, television, film, and print.
Step # 2 - Pay your application fee. Depending upon which type of material you are copyrighting, there will be a fee for filing. It is cheaper to file your application online ($35) versus through a paper application ($45). Of course this is just the rate for literary work; it is different for other works.
Step # 3 - Prepare your nonrefundable deposit. The nonrefundable deposit is a copy of the work you want to register.
There are several stipulations upon the requirements of the work that is to be filed:
You must send 2 complete copies or phonorecords of your work if it was published before January 1, 1978.
You must send 2 complete copies or phonorecords of your best work if it was published on or after January 1, 1978.
If your work was not created in the United States, you must send the same work (2 copies or phonorecords) as it was originally published.
Again, depending upon the type of work you have created, there may be a different deposit required. Here are a few of the special deposit circumstances:
A phonorecording (this is anything that has been recorded such as a CD) must be sent in its entirety to the copyright office.
A computer program copyright is treated differently as well. You are required to send the first 25 pages of source code for the program. You must also send in the complete program if your program is less than 50 pages.
The complete application, a complete copy of your work (or the required work pages), and the appropriate application fee must be mailed in the same package to the U.S. Copyright Office. Of course, if you fill out the online application you will not have to do this (just a simple upload of your files will be sent to the Copyright Office).
How copyright infringement is identified
Copyright infringement should be taken very seriously. You must gain written permission from the owner of the copyright. If you have not gained the permission of the owner, you have violated the owner's copyright and they can seek legal action.
Several companies have legal teams who search for any copyright infringement. Again, the web is a common violator of copyrights. Fan websites often copy music, images, and other content without the permission of the owner. Several larger companies have people and spiders (web crawlers) that will search the Web for images and text. If they find anything matches their content, that web site will be flagged and reviewed for copyright infringement.
Of course, smaller companies may not have the necessary funds or man-power to search for copyright infringement. Many small companies learn about copyright infringement from word of mouth or by accident.
What is "fair use"?
Some people may argue "fair use" as a defense for copying another's work. Before you can claim "fair use", you must first admit to copyright infringement and prove why you thought it was okay to copy another person's work.
Educational research is often given the benefit of the doubt for copyright infringement. Many students use short excerpts from article and forget to attribute the source. A judge will have the final decision in your case to determine if you can use "fair use" as a defense. If you are writing a paper for school or anything for that matter, be sure to site your sources and give credit where credit is due.
The same rule applied to graphics or images from the web, be sure you have obtained permission and you site the owner of the photograph beneath the picture or image.
Works were published before January 1, 1978 are automatically protected from when it was created and it will last for the authors life and plus 70 additional years. Works that were created before January 1, 1978 but were not published or registered are given federal copyright protection and will work the same way as the other works that were published (life-long, plus an additional 70 years).
Copyright laws do not pertain to having an international copyright. It varies upon the country if your work will be protected. The national laws of the country will determine if a person is using copyrighted material illegally.
How to add a copyright to your work
The best practice you can take is to put a copyright notice on every work you create.
There are 3 things that represent a copyright notice:
The word "copyright", the symbol "c", or the abbreviation "Copr."
The year of the first publication of the work (for example, if you created a work in 2003, and then added changes to it in 2007, you should still put copyright 2003 on the document)
The name of the copyright owner
Many people take copyright information
on step further and add "all rights reserved" to their copyright. You should place the copyright notice in a visible place. You don't need to make it huge, a small font is fine, just as long as it is on your work and people will be able to see it. Many people will place their copyright on the back of their brochure, DVD, CD, or book. As long as you permanently attach the copyright to your material, you should be just fine.
In order to protect yourself, start with the copyright notice on your work. If you have a website, be sure to place a copyright notice on each page. Many people install a `no right click' feature into their coding.
For photographs, you should place a watermark over each picture to refrain people from copying them. Some companies have designed their website in Flash format. The major problem with Flash format is that it does take a long time to download and search engine crawlers do not read it so your search engine rankings could be quite lower than they should be.
Insert copyright information into your HTML coding. This way, if someone steals your coding, you can prove it is yours because of the copyright because you inserted secret text. The internet is a popular place for many people to steal your work. With its wide access and vast amount of information, many feel the material on the internet is available for anyone.
Take the proper procedures to protect yourself before someone takes credit for your work. If you catch someone stealing your work, be sure to contact them immediately to resolve the situation. If you are not able to resolve it, contact a copyright attorney.