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The Value of Copyright Protection

To determine the value of copyright protection, it would seem like a good idea to research how much one spends on protection vs. how much can be awarded in a copyright infringement case.

However, in searching the web, one will notice it is very difficult to find statistics on copyright infringement cases that have gone to court.  While many cases can be found about the millions of dollars mega stars like Beyoncé are being sued for in infringement cases, it is much more difficult to find general cases of copyright infringement when they are not dealing with celebrities.

This is not, however, an indication that there is little value of copyright protection.  The reality is, most copyright infringement cases are settled out of court – and the best way to achieve a quick settlement is to have the appropriate copyright protection.

What is Copyright Protection?

In essence, copyright protection is granted to the owner of the work so they can do what they please with the work.  More specifically, copyright protection is the exclusive rights granted to the owner of the copyright (often the creator) for a limited time.  These rights include:

  • producing or reproducing the work or any substantial part thereof
  • permitting the reproduction of the work or any substantial part thereof
  • performing the work or any substantial part thereof
  • publishing the work or any substantial part thereof

How do I Attain Copyright Protection for My Work?

Automatic Protection
The good news is copyright arises automatically upon an author’s or creator’s expression of an idea in an original, fixed form (for example, on paper, CD, floppy disk, etc.).  In other words, if you write the lyrics to a song on a napkin, it is copyrighted and you own the rights.

Sound good? Not quite.  Unless you can prove you are the original creator of the song (or the work in question), you may run into expensive and time-consuming legal problems defending your work in the event of infringement.

Copyright Notice
Another method to attain copyright protection, although not required in all countries, is to include a copyright notice on the work itself.  The owner of the work still has the copyrights without this notice, but it does add more protection.  Including the notice can enhance protection because:  the infringer cannot claim they did not know the work was copyrighted; it may actually discourage infringement; and it makes it easier for a party to obtain permission from the owner if they want to use a portion of the work in question.

To write a copyright notice, include the word ‘copyright’ and the symbol ‘©’, the date of first publication or creation, the owner’s name.

Ex: Copyright © 2008 by John Smith.

Registering your Work
To significantly increase copyright protection, it is recommended one register their work with an impartial third party (the government, guilds, online registries, etc.).

The purpose of registering your work is to create a time-stamped document, from an impartial third party, that will provide proof to the courts about the author of the work and the date and time it was created (or registered).   In the case of infringement, a copyright registration can be used to settle disputes with alleged infringers before any recourse to the courts is even necessary.

All in all, copyright registration can be thought of as an air bag in a car.  You hope you never need it – but are thankful it’s there if you do!   You can register your copyright online with some registries for as little as $3 per registration – and it can end up saving you thousands of dollars should someone use a portion of your work without your permission.

Remember – infringement is not necessarily intentional.  Someone could have heard or seen your work – and without realizing it – incorporated it into their projects.

Copyright Services

Fortunately, the government is no longer the only copyright registration service available.  While they are still a great option – it can be quite costly.

Some associations also register work – however, paid membership is often mandatory.

Lastly, there are online copyright services.  These tend to be easily accessible and less expensive than more traditional options.

When searching for a copyright service, ensure you understand the terms of the registration.  Some questions to ask include:

  • Is there a membership fee?
  • Are there renewal fees to maintain the registration?
  • Is the protection for the life of copyright?
  • When will you receive your time-stamped registration certificate?
  • Can you access your registered work or your registration certificate anytime?
  • Where is the copy of your registration kept?  Do you send a hard copy or an electronic file?
  • If it’s an online copyright service, can you have a free trial?
  • Do courts of law recognize the validity of the information gathered on the certificate?

As a final note, if you are going to file a lawsuit in the United States, the U.S Copyright Office requires that you first register with them before proceeding with the suit.  Fortunately, you can register your copyright at any time, so if you have already registered using another method, this would just be a formality.  Ideally, you would register with a less expensive option and only file with the U.S Copyright Office if you had to file a lawsuit.

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.

Author Bio
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.

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