A Little Bit of Copyright
Several members have recently asked for information about copyrighting their work. In actuality, all “original works of authorship” are copyrighted as a matter of law when they are created. Original works of authorship include literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. But how do you protect your copyright?
The most basic step you can take to protect your copyright is to use the © symbol, with a legend that includes your name and the year of creation, eg © Copyright Gabrielle Lessard 2011. Using the copyright symbol puts others on notice that you intend to protect your rights in your work, which may be all you need to do to deter encroachment. Of course you don’t want to put a big copyright notice right on the front of your screen-print or painting. It is sufficient to put the notice on the back. It is also a very good idea to use a copyright watermark over your images when posting them online.
A further step you can take to protect your work is to register it with the US Copyright office. Registration creates a formal, public record of your rights in the work, and is extremely beneficial if you need to sue someone to protect your rights. Work can be registered by mail or online. There are several advantages to online registration – the fee is lower ($35 vs $50), applications are processed faster, and can provide a digital image of your work rather than a copy. (However, you will be required to submit a copy if the Library of Congress requests one.)
It is important to note that the record of your registration is PUBLIC – all information you provide to the copyright office will be available on the internet. Therefore, you might want to consider using a post office box and perhaps an assumed name on your application.
Additional information and registration materials are available on the copyright office web site at www.copyright.gov. Circular 40, which deals specifically with works of visual art, may be especially useful.