Understanding Copyright (Clear measures to follow)

Copyright is not a black & white issue, but has layers of gray matter –

(see various links below with helpful copyright information)

MWC1There are many ongoing discussions on this topic in various writer websites, blogs and columns. There was a great conversation at Indies Unlimited and another on LinkedIn. Some say “keep it simple and mail yourself the manuscript.” The truth is you don’t even have to do that –  As an author of a work you automatically have the copyright, whether you are a writer or student,  at least according to the newest law.

In 1998 they updated the  Copyright Act of 1976. You have the rights to your work for life plus seventy years!

There are some issues though, that crop up from time to time, when you may need more than your copyright of author. If you truly want to be protected, in a case of plagiarism for example, the courts will be more in your favor to award your injury if you have the copyright registered.

Lucky for us all, it is easy to do and fairly inexpensive. Just go on-line and register and pay the $35 fee, that’s it. http://www.copyright.gov/  thCAIPPIK2

The gray area of copyright law comes into play more often when we choose to sell our rights, or license the rights. This is also very important to know about, if you ever quote someone, or use parts of other people’s work in any novel, instructional material or classwork.

Free-Public-Domain-Watching-EyeFor example, in copyright law there is an exception 110-1 which states some works can be quoted and used for educational purposes. Like any exception, you need to understand when and where it applies. Most teachers use this exception in their classroom when they show a film, or pass out enrichment materials. Most don’t give it a second thought, however as authors, we need to be sure that any content we use to support our own work, is licensed for that use, before we use it. The intent of the redistribution is also very important.

There are some places where it is easier to find the public work we can use and reference in our writing, let’s say for our own blog. We can visit the Public Domain and see what is there open for the public. Just make sure you understand what can be used, and how. Also, there is work listed as Creative Commons, again with various licenses controlling how the work can be used. So read and understand the license attached to the work you want to quote.

The same kind of protection follows musicians. There have been cases where one songwriter will sue another – most famous that comes to my mind is when George Harrison was sued by the Chiffons for his ‘My Sweet Lord’ recording. On that note – here is a sample of the famous two songs – Judge for yourself.

Useful Links:

http://www.copyright.gov/title17/    copyr Gov







http://creativecommons.org/      cc










Digital Millennium Copyright Act

http://www.wipo.int/portal/en/index.html   WIPO


Five questions



Selfpublishers Need To Know About US Copyright

Do You Need To Copyright Your Work?

thCAU11803There have been a lot of discussions about this topic all over blogger web sites like Indies Unlimited and social channels like LinkedIn group discussions.

The most common advice out there in the Indie world is to mail yourself a copy of your work, because once you have that time stamp by the US post office, it’s official.

The only concern is – Would this stand up in court?

Ask yourself these questions –

  • Are you concerned about your work being stolen or plagiarized?
  • Will you be using multiple distribution channels including overseas?

To ensure your rights are protected here in the US, go to the website and apply. It’s that simple.

It is an easy process. The website is http://copyright.gov/

First you will have to register.

Second you will have to fill in the information about your work and send or attach copies.

Don’t be intimidated, just read the instructions and make sure you understand what they are asking.

The fee is low, your peace of mind for $35 – A deal for these days.My Library of Congress Copyright

Once you open the claim it will take a while for it to process. My experience was a long wait, but they had been going through a major site construction at the time. When they needed physical copies, I was contacted by an employee via email and she was very professional, courteous and helpful.



My Registration Number is TX7-809-694 effective (retro) date May 22, 2013 

Everything is up and running smoothly now. Here is the list for the new fees just announced yesterday.  http://www.copyright.gov/fls/sl04.pdf

 freeDo not confuse the copyright registered with the Library of Congress with DRM – that is an entire different matter we can discuss at another time. Also don’t assume that US laws mean anything anywhere else, some countries acknowledge US rights, some do not. So you see there is still more you can research before you make your decision – just learn about it and make an informed decision.

Here is a quick FUN video on US Copyright & Use


Another Video on copyright law history & facts