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How to copyright your copy

A few days ago, a friend of mine who authors a successful social-media blog had her work stolen and reproduced word-for-word in a competing site. It took a few days to resolve the issue, but thankfully no legal measures were needed to bring the culprit to book.

But it got me thinking about the importance of copyright. With information so freely available on the internet, who’s to stop someone from copying and pasting your articles onto their site? So I did a little bit of research about the subject and decided to share my findings with you.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is simply the legal protection afforded by law for your “original works of authorship”. It covers both published and unpublished work. Examples of protected work are music, literary works, art, pictures, graphics, sound and video recordings, etc.

What does the copyright process involve?

Surprisingly, there is no process! The fact is, your work is protected by law as soon as it is created and transformed into a tangible form that can be perceived or communicated directly (print material) or electronically via a machine or device.

That means that all the blogs posts, articles, reports and information products that you have created are protected. Indeed, even the unfinished drafts sitting dormant in a file (physical or electronic) are already protected by law! Isn’t that good to know?

However, it is still a good idea to affix the copyright notice or the word ‘copyright’ to your work so that you may be easily identified as the owner. (Wow, I just realized that my computer doesn’t have the copyright symbol i.e the letter “c” with the circle around it -That’s what you get when you purchase your laptop in Europe!)

So I don’t need to register my work with the government?

No you don’t! Copyright protection is automatic and transfers immediately upon creation of your work as long as it is sufficiently permanent or stable to allow it to be communicated.

However, there are some real benefits to registering your work with the government:

  • To have a public record and obtain a certificate to hang on your wall;
  • Registered work may be eligible for statutory damages if you ever file a lawsuit that turns out to be successful;
  • If registration is filed within five years of publication, it is considered to be ‘prima facie’ (i.e at first sight, your original work provides enough evidence to establish a case in a court of law).

If you choose to register your work with the government, you have several registration options:

  • Online registration which costs $35 and takes about six months to receive a certificate of registration;
  • Registration with Fill-in-Form CO which costs $50 and takes about eight months to receive a certificate of registration;
  • Registration with paper forms which costs $65 and takes about eighteen months to receive a certificate of registration.

However you choose to use this information, it is important to remember that copyright law is for your protection. It gives you (as the author of original work) exclusive rights to protect your work, and it encourages your creativity and learning.

For more detailed information about copyright law and how it applies to your work, feel free to visit the government’s copyright website at www.copyright.gov

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