What happens when you put words out there on the Internet? Do you own you writing? Can you protect it against plagiarism?
Lisa Kimrey, a business consultant and freelance writer, shares a few tips about how bloggers can use copyright laws to protect their intellectual property. Lisa is based in the United States, so her advice is US-specific.
T-shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes.
That was my dream work attire when I still worked in the corporate world. And I totally copied that idea from Stephanie Plum. (She’s a character in a book series by Janet Evanovich.) That is Stephanie’s bounty hunter dress code!
The other part of that dream was to become a freelance writer, and I did just that thanks to Gina’s 30 days to Freelance Writing Success course.
And now, I am totally living the dream!
But for a writer, there are rules for what we can copy, and guidelines on exactly how to do it.
Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to follow these rules.
Thankfully, there are laws that protect our written work from being copied without our permission. These laws fall under copyright protection.
While there is a lot of information on the topic, there really are just a few solid ‘must knows’ for writers, which are presented below.
1. What Is a Copyright?
According to Copyrigtht.gov, a copyright – a form of intellectual property (IP) law – is a framework of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.
2. How to Copyright Your Work
Actually, your work is protected the minute it is created. IP law protects your original works of authorship as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form and is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
So in other words, as a writer or blogger, your works are protected as soon as you write them-with pen and paper, or on your digital device.
It is recommended that you go ahead and document your copyright information on your work.
You can put the symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word “Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”, your author name, and the creation year of the first publication on each of your works.
It is no longer required by law and it doesn’t change any of your protections legally, but it does bring awareness to anyone who may be tempted to copy your work.
The documentation above shows it is has copyright protection, the name of the author and the first publication year.
And, in some cases it can help you in an infringement lawsuit-particularly when the symbol and information is/was available to the defendant at the time of the infringement.
3. How the Copyright Law Protects Your Work
There are a few nuances to remember, in particular, the copyright law protects original works of authorship including works of:
As well as artistic works such as:
- Computer software
In fact, even something basic like a sweet letter to your significant other is protected!
But, it does not protect:
- Methods of operation
Although it may protect the way these things are expressed. (You can find more about that here.)
Basically, the law protects your work and what you can do with your work (i.e. only you have rights to sell the written property).
4. What Is the Value of Registering with the Government?
You are not required to register your work, it is completely voluntary, and you are protected (as described above) without registration.
However, you will have to register if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work anytime in the future.
Registration is recommended for a number of other reasons too.
Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration.
Only registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation.
Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie (obvious) evidence in a court of law.
More information about registration can be found here.
5. What Are Works Made for Hire?
The main exception to this IP law is when you have made the work as part of your employment for someone else.
For example, if you are a writer for a newspaper or your employer’s company blog you do not own the copy, thus do not have copyright protection.
(Typically for freelance writers, this information will be spelled out in your contract and specifies which ‘rights’ you are keeping and/or giving up. It will vary contract to contract, so it is important to read the fine print, ask questions and do your own research.)
This is a lot of useful information for writers. It is comforting to know that our works are protected with, or without, registration.
In the same way that you get to choose what you wear while working from home, you can choose if registration is a good fit for you.
Understanding what a copyright is, when your work is protected, what the law protects, the benefits of registering your work and the basics of ‘works made for hire’ is a solid foundation to to making a good choice for you.
Are you going to make any changes after reading this? What are you going to do?
Lisa is a writer and VA for hire, and a business consultant. She has 24 years of experience as an RN in a variety of settings. Lisa enjoys helping clients with cost analysis and process improvement, and finds joy writing health and medical articles and about her nursing experiences. You can read more about the services that Lisa offers at Mylifenurse.com
Disclaimer: This post does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice about intellectual property, please consult a licensed attorney.