Copyright is a legal protection for “original works of authorship,” which are types of intellectual property that can be expressed in a tangible form, such as stories, music, film, artwork, fashion, architectural designs, software, dance routines, and dramatic performances. Such copyright protection essentially stops others from misusing or appropriating your work without your permission.
You may have heard that to obtain a copyright, all you have to do mail a copy of your original work to yourself through the post office. This is not true.
This myth is known as the “Poor Man’s Copyright” and is the process of documenting your work and dating it, then mailing it to yourself so that there’s a postmarked date on the envelope establishing “proof” of the date of your authorship.
However, this method of “protection” doesn’t actually work in the United States. Assuming you kept the envelop unopened mailings may be used to establish how long you’ve attempted to claim ownership of your work, but it would only be circumstantial evidence in a court of law.
So, do I need to formally register my work to receive copyright protection?
Your copyright is established the moment your work is created in a fixed or tangible form. Registration of your copyright is entirely voluntary under the law, but the problem would be proving this established date later on down the road should an infringement situation arise.
So why would I bother to register with the United States Copyright Office?
Formal registration of your copyright is important for a number of reasons. First, in order to bring a lawsuit for infringement if someone steals your work, you’ll need to have registered copyright. Having a registered copyright will also allow you to obtain statutory damages and attorney’s fees if you are forced into litigation. Having a formal copyright can also serve as a deterrent from others stealing your work, especially if you use the Ó symbol. The registration serves as part of the public record for a date of ownership.
Can you register your copyright yourself, or do you need a lawyer’s help?
An intellectual property lawyer who focuses on copyright law can be quite useful, especially when the application is complex or when there are other issues, such as copyright infringement or disputes.
While there are a handful of basic components of a copyright application, they’re not always cut and dry. For example, a film may need a copyright on various parts, such as the dramatic parts, the audiovisual component, and the music, if applicable. A copyright lawyer can help if case of a dispute over ownership of a work, or if you’re concerned that your work may be similar to another that has been copyrighted already. A copyright lawyer can be especially helpful to anyone outside the United States trying to file in this country, as they can help the applicant understand United States copyright law.
If you’re filing for a copyright and want assistance, our copyright lawyers can help you. Simply contact our office at 888-666-0062 and ask to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.
Law Office of Jason H. Rosenblum, PLLC © 2018 All rights reserved.