What is copyright, how is it created, and what does it protect?

What is a copyright, how is it created and what does it protect?

By Tonya M. Evans (excerpt from Copyright Companion for Writers)

once-upon-a-timeIf you have created an original literary or artistic work in some tangible form – in writing, electronic file or on film or canvas, for example – then nothing more is required as copyright is created automatically.

So in order for a copyright to exist, you must have created a literary or artistic work that is original (independently created) and tangibly expressed in a form that is actually capable of being copied.

In general, the Copyright Act gives a copyright owner the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:

  1. Copy the work
  2. Prepare derivative works based on the original (screenplay based on a novel or vice versa)
  3. Distribute copies of the work to the public (publication)
  4. Publicly display
  5. Publicly perform

Collectively, these rights are often referred to as an author’s exclusive bundle of rights.

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What is the Poor Man’s Copyright and how can it protect my work?

Man Scratching Head

Copyright Tonya M. Evans. All rights reserved.

Excerpt from Literary Law Guide for Authors

The short answer? It CAN’T. Surprised?

The concept known as the poor man’s copyright says basically that you should mail yourself a copy of your work and not open it in order to establish the date that your work existed in case you ever need to defend your work or challenge a work you believe infringes on your rights.

This, unfortunately, is a myth that continues to be perpetuated even by established writers and it should no longer exist in the writing world!

The Poor Man’s Copyright does not offer any additional protection beyond that which already exists once your idea is fixed and thus your work is created. Additionally it does not constitute a registration of your copyright.

Registration is generally straightforward and inexpensive (as low as $35, as of this posting) – a small price to pay to preserve valuable rights. Consider it an insurance policy. For more information about copyright, visit Copyright.gov.

Don’t leave your rights to chance. Let our expert LWP legal team register your work with RegisterRight™!