Thursday, March 13, 2014

How do I copyright my work?

Strictly speaking, copyrighting your work is not at all difficult. Basically, when you do some work, and you can prove somehow when exactly you did the work, this is sufficient. This means that all published work has copyright, even if you don't register your work.

In the case of unpublished work, some other method that can prove the date of completion of the work will do. Sealing up the manuscript and mailing it to yourself is probably the easiest way to do this and is called the poor man's copyright. Of course you need to keep it sealed and with the postmark because that is where the date will be.

You can also show it to friends and family and get them to sign on it with the date mentioned. As long as they can verify that the signature is theirs and that the book has not been tampered with, this too will suffice.

Submitting your work to the British Library so that they have a copy as part of their record of all published work is another idea. This can be done only with published work and within one month of publication.

Another simple way is to use the © Copyright symbol in the book. The use of the symbol shows that you understand what the copyright law is and that you are willing to protect your work. You can also include a short sentence after the symbol, explaining this in lay man's terms.

“© 2013, [your name]. Except as provided by the Copyright Act [date, etc.] no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.” is the simplest and most common format followed. The wording can and is altered by publishers, but the basic format remains the same.

Using a registration service is another way, although this may entail a certain amount of expenditure. How much and whether this is a one-time expenditure or a recurring one depends on the agency you go with and how comprehensive the copyright is that you are getting.

You can also directly register your work, such as at the US Copyright Office, where they allow you to upload a soft copy of your work. As mentioned in a previous article, this may not be possible in all countries though because some don't even have a method to do so.

Please do not use this article as the basis for making your decision on whether you want to obtain copyright or not. Laws in each country differ, and knowing the law of your land is important if you want to protect your work in court in the future.

Note: Copyright only protects the author's expression in whatever form he chooses to. It does not protect any idea, system, method, or even title. 

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