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Topic: How Do I Get Something Copyrighted?
Message: Posted by: Andrew E. Miller (May 5, 2003 09:20PM)
See title. Also, what is the cost?

Message: Posted by: ddyment (May 6, 2003 11:40AM)
In the US, neither publication nor registration is required to secure copyright. Copyright is secured [b]automatically[/b] when the work is created.

A copyright can, however, be [b]registered[/b] (for $30), and there are some advantages to doing this if you seriously expect legal challenges. All the details can be found in a handy [url=http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html]circular from the US Copyright Office[/url].

... Doug
Message: Posted by: Andy Leviss (May 6, 2003 01:39PM)
Also, although I don't know if it applies here since you didn't state what you're looking to protect, it's worth remembering that an effect is not protected by copyright. A specific performance of an effect is, as is a written description of that effect, but if one were to sufficiently rewrite the effect in their own words, while it would be problematic on an ethical level, legally the copyright would offer no protection.

As Doug noted, without registration, copyright is somewhat meaningless. It's a weird setup, where a work is copyright the moment it's created, but you have no ability to enforce the copyright through the courts without registering.

Message: Posted by: ddyment (May 6, 2003 05:52PM)
Andy said:[quote]As Doug noted, without registration, copyright is somewhat meaningless.[/quote]
I didn't actually say this (nor would I). I noted only that there are [b]advantages[/b] to registration (these are listed in the cited reference).

[quote]... you have no ability to enforce the copyright through the courts without registering.[/quote]
This is true in a literal sense, but ignores the issue that the registration can be done at any time, not necessarily when the work is created. That is, if you plan to sue somebody for infringement, you need to register the copyright before initiating the suit, but you can wait until a situation arises before doing so. Your claim to ownership is the same whether or not the copyright has been registered, and you can definitely have it enforced. Registration gives you a simple, inexpensive way to verify the copyright claim, which can otherwise be difficult to establish (though by no means impossible). It also allows you to recover statutory damages and attorney's fees, depending on the relative timings of the publication of the work, the registration, and the infringement action.

This is all well covered in the cited document, though, so I encourage anyone interested to read through it rather than take suggestions from us non-lawyers.

... Doug
Message: Posted by: Andrew E. Miller (May 6, 2003 07:58PM)
Thanks guys. I am new to all this so forgive my ignorance. I thought in order to have something copyrighted you had to have it registered.

Message: Posted by: Andy Leviss (May 7, 2003 03:59AM)
My apologies for mis-stating what you said, Doug. As for my reasons for thinking so, I was fairly certain that you had to have registered before the alleged infringement to be able to sue. Otherwise what's to keep me from claiming that your original creation is an infringement on mine and then just registering a copy of it and suing you before you have a chance to register it?

Like Doug really did say this time, don't take our word for it, ask a lawyer.

Okay, here's where my confusion may have stemmed from. That circular says:

If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.

If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner.

So, if you don't register within three months, you cannot collect for statutory damages or attorney's fees, and if you don't register within five years you can't use the copyright registration as proof of the validity of the copyright. So while you have legal recourse even if you don't register right away, you're doing yourself a disservice, and if you wait a really long time, it's going to be harder to prove the infringement since you need to find some other proof to validate your copyright.

Again, though, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. For legal advice, see a qualified attorney, not a magician or mentalist at an internet message board ;)
Message: Posted by: Bill Hallahan (May 7, 2003 11:51PM)
You can find complete information about United States Copyright procedure at: [url=http://www.copyright.gov/]U.S. Copyright Office[/url]