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There are so many details involved with copyright law; it’s easy to confuse the facts.  Protecting copyright can be made much simpler if we begin to defuse some of the common myths surrounding poor man’s copyright, the copyright notice, copyright registration, the public domain, and copyright infringement claims.

1. Poor Man’s Copyright Works to Protect Copyright
No, Negative, Incorrect.  The inefficiency of poor man’s copyright to protect copyright really can’t be stressed enough.

The courts do not view this ‘method’ of protecting copyright to be a form of valid registration, with good reason.  Unlike other forms for copyright registration, poor man’s copyright (the method of mailing yourself a copy of your work through registered mail) can be tampered with in a number of ways.

With other forms of registration, such as when you copyright online, register with the Government, or register with associations, a reputable third-party is providing you with a time-stamped registration certificate which helps prove your ownership of the work in a court of law.

2. You need a copyright notice on your work to Protect Copyright
Incorrect… for the most part.  If your work was created in the United States, you may still require a copyright notice on your work to protect copyright if the work was created before March 1, 1989.

However, under the Berne Convention, which concluded in 1886, there is the principle of ‘Automatic Protection’.  This essentially states that countries who belong to this convention, which includes over 100 countries,  have automatic protection of copyright as soon as it is put in a fixed form.  In other words, if you are a national of a Bern Convention country, and you create a work and put it on a piece of paper, record it on CD, or paint it on a canvas (for example), you automatically own the copyright to that work regardless of whether the copyright notice appears.

Having said this, it is still very much recommended to include the notice on your work for added copyright protection.

To find out if your country belongs to the Bern Convention, click here.

3. I need to register my work to Protect Copyright
You do not need to register your work to protect copyright for the reasons stated above in Myth # 2.  However, like with the copyright notice, you definitely can gain added protection through copyright registration.

Although you are granted automatic copyright protection simply by putting your original work in a tangible form, it could be very difficult to prove you are the original creator of the work without a third party registration.

Fortunately, protecting copyright can be much more inexpensive than in the past, as there are many new services where you can register your copyright online vs. enduring the expenses of going through the government or trying ineffective methods such as poor man’s copyright.

4. If work is on the Internet, it’s in the Public Domain and I can use it without permission
This is definitely false, so please do not fall into the trap of believing you can use other people’s work just because it is posted online.  A work is in the public domain when the copyright has expired, not when it is easily accessed by the public.  As such, using someone’s copyright from a website without permission is infringement and you could be charged.

5.  It’s hard to Prove Copyright Infringement – So Why Should I Protect Copyright?
Fortunately for copyright creators, this is incorrect.  While it may be more difficult to prove infringement in a criminal court, because the owness is on the plaintiff to prove the work was infringed up, in Civil Court the plaintiff must simply convince the court that their claim is valid. As such, there is a much great chance to win your case.  Additionally, most cases do not need to go to court when the evidence provided is sufficient for the infringing party to settle.

Disclaimer: The above is meant as a general guide to further your copyright knowledge and does not constitute legal advice.  For questions about your specific work, you should consult a copyright lawyer in your country.

Justine Shoolman is the Co-Founder of Copyright Creators (www.copyrightcreators.com), a service inspired by the shortfalls of ‘poor man’s copyright’.  Copyright Creators protects copyright for life with no membership or renewal fees.  Visit Copyright Creators today and you’ll receive 4 free registrations to protect & create proof of your copyright online.

One Response to “Protecting Copyright – Top 5 Myths Examined”

  1. Stephen says:

    Thanks for this article. It cleared up a lot of confusion for me.
    S. Patel

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