Thursday, 10 June 2010

Tip of the day for 10 June: getting copyright

It might seem to be too good to be true, but you don't need to do anything to secure copyright. All you have to do is create something that copyright will protect. You don't even need to put © on it, though there are good reasons to do so when you publish copies.

This might also seem to be too easy to be true, or to be entirely good for you. That's often right. When you say you own copyright in somethng, or that it is your copyright work, all you are really doing is claiming that you have it. To support that claim, you might need evidence. What if someone accuses you of copying their work, or you find someone who seems to have copied yours? Which one was first in time will then be an important matter (though it won't be the only thing to argue about, because if there's no copying there's no infringement).

To prove that you had created a work by a particular date, you can post a copy to yourself or some trusted third party (your lawyer might be a good choice) and keep the unopened package, conveniently dated by the Royal Mail, in a safe place. You could deposit the copy with a bank or other agent, of course, but the posting-to-someone option is particularly easy.

The United States still operates a copyright register, so there is somewhere in the world where you can officially deposit a copy and get a filing date. However, you should beware of ne thing: your work will be published as part of the process. If it's not confidential, that doesn't really matter, but if it's something like an idea for a film or TV series this is exactly what you don't want. A useful alternative which does meet the needs of the authors of such things is provided by the Writers' Guild of America, and it is available to non-members. But This is not legal advice, and you should ensure it is right for you first - and equally you should get professional advice on other tips given here. All I'm trying to do is point you in the right direction, and help you avoid some pitfalls!

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