Monday, September 29, 2008

Basics of Copyright

Now that I have created this blog, I wanted to find out a bit more background information regarding copyright.

Interestingly, according to the official website of the US Copyright Office, the minute something unique is created, it is protected by copyright. So, no formal registration is needed, meaning that every time I set pen to paper, and every time my students write something, we have protection.

However, to act on that protection (for example, take someone to court for copyright infringement) we must register our work with the US Copyright Office. To register a work, you need $35-$45 depending on the method of submission, an application form, and at least one NON RETURNABLE copy of the thing you are getting a copyright for.

Minors can apply for a copyright, which as an educator is important for me to know, but evidently different states may have laws which infringe on the rights of minors as it pertains to copyright.

So, in theory based on my preliminary findings, every piece of writing that I or my students have created is protected by copyright, but until I register my work, I have no legal means of recourse if my work is plagiarized.

More to follow later on copyright infringements from unpublished works...once I find some cases and articles!

U.S. Copyright Office. (September 2008). About Copyright. Retrieved September 29, 2008,


Anonymous said...

I found your findings very interesting. I wasn't aware that even tho you don't do the paperwork and send in the money, that your work was protected. But in all reality, if you don't have legal rights via the paperwork, then what kind of rights do you still have? I hope this question isn't too unclear.

jenmcconnel said...

That's a really good question. I suppose that until you take legal action to protect your work, you really only have "moral" protection: you have to depend on others to respect the copyright that exists even without registering for it.

I don't really think you would have rights to legal recourse if the "moral copyright", as I am calling it, is may be able to get your work copyrighted then, but if it has already been altered or used, it would become a legal "he said, she said" battle to determine who had first rights...very messy!

I guess based on my findings so far, I would recommend applying for a copyright on any work that you want to share publicly before doing so...or trust personal ethics to keep your work safe until it is in it's most complete stage!

Erica said...

This post was very informative. I took a guess at your little survey on the right margin. I didn't know that as soon as your pen put something on paper, your work was protected.

The cost to "apply" for copyright is pretty fair. Not too bad.

Julia Elloff said...

I'm interested in being a writer too, so I think your topic is wonderful! I didn't realize we were automatically protected either, although as you said no legal recourse can be taken unless you've filed. My question is- how long before you decide to publish a work should you file for copyright, or is it done as one whole?

Jamie A. Lewis said...

I've been thinking about doing some freelance writing and this information has come at a very appropriate time. This is something that we should be teaching in our classrooms to students.

Izzy Fattore said...

Hey Jennifer,
I have a question, can I wait until someone uses my work before I register my work, or must I do it right away?

jenmcconnel said...

Julia: I think deciding when to register your work is a personal decision, and for me, I would wait until I was ready to seek publication, since if I understand correctly, any changes to the work would mean seeking a new copyright, which is pricey for an unpublished author!

Izzy: I would register the work as soon as you feel it is complete, because if you wait until someone uses it, you might not be able to be protected legally, even though you technically own the copyright.