Protecting Your Work: The Legalities of Copyrights

Copyright laws and issues are the a priority for most writer’s minds as they create work, especially in the age of internet publishing. From the moment it is created, the work is owned by the creator, and if for any reason that work is re-published by another person, depending on whether the creator protected their work, can be suitable for any copyright law infringements. Writers must be aware of the copyright laws and protect their work, especially if they intend on publishing work in the print or electronical media. New writers sometimes do not know the laws, or how to protect their work, and that is the intent of this exploration of copyrighting.

As a new writer goes about their work, they create a poem, essay or story and share it freely for feedback. This is a good concept, however, before you pull out that poem, email that story, or post your work on any forums on any website, please note to copyright your work. How you do this is simply to write your name at the end of the work, with the copyright symbol Ã?© , the year you created the work, and your name, with “All Rights Reserved” at the end.

“All Rights Reserved” pretty much means it is your work and you hold all the rights unless permission is granted for someone to use it. In other words, if you sent out material via internet without this information at the end of the work, someone else could tag their name on your work, or take the credit for it, without your knowledge. “All Rights Reserved” means another entity would have to ask for permission to use said work before using it.

As you begin to send out work and you want to take it further, there are several options available to protect your work. The first one is called, “Poor Man’s Copyright” and this is where the creator sends their own material in an self-addressed stamped envelope to themselves with the work inside of the envelope. The creator sends the poem/story/or work inside the envelope, addresses the envelope To and From themselves as the sender and receiver and then notates the name of the work on the back of the envelope, then sends it off.

When the envelope is received back to the creator, it will have a postal date on it and that can be used as the “copyright date”. The cost is only a stamp (thirty-seven cents) and can protect the work. Additionally, writers can make sure to keep a log of work they copyrighted through this process by getting a file folder to keep all the copyrighted material in it, or a binder and labeling each copyrighted work as it is sent out and received back.

Another option to get your work copyrighted is to go to your local currency change, bank or other place where someone can notarize it. Once it is notarized by a public notary your work has a copyright date on it. The cost for this option is local rates for notaries.

Many professional writers utilize the United States Library of Congress Copyright Office. This is the option that costs the most, but is the most legal binding. The creator either can call the Copyright Office at 1-202-707-3000 and have them send the Short TX form or the long form (depending on your needs). Once you receive the form, complete it fully, and then send the completed form back with the fee of Thirty U.S. Dollars to get the official registration back.

When you send off the completed materials (the form, a copy of the work you are registering, and the fee) make sure to send it with certified mail (the green card that you complete with a return address) so you can get a postal date to prove when you sent it off to the US Copyright Office. You can also do this by logging on to and downloading the appropriate forms. When you go to the website, you can read up on the copyright laws, and be informed about how to really protect your work. With this option, it will take a few months to get the official registration from Washington but once you get it, there will be the form you completed with an official seal on it from the Copyright Office.

You store that registration for future reference, perhaps for your own publication, or other proof that you own it. Most writers use this option when they are about to publish a book or other publication. Please note, you can send a bunch of poems in one stack (but title it), or a rough draft of a story, book, even other things like audio created (a cd would need to be provided). Anything you create from a story to an audio recording, can be copyrighted.

Protecting your work should be a priority and is very easy to do, so keep creating it and don’t be a victim because you were too lazy to either send your work to yourself via a stamp, go to a notary, or send your materials to the US Copyright Office. Your work was created by you and you alone. Don’t let someone steal your work because you failed to protect it. It’s your right to create and protect the work you have decided to share with the world.

�© 2005 by Pam Osbey
All Rights Reserved

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