Copyright Law – Helping Those Who Help Themselves

Hi everyone!

I thought that it would be a good idea to talk about the copyright law for my second article, since it applies directly to writers, artists, photographers, musicians, basically anyone who creates anything on their own.  I know, it’s a very serious topic, but an important one for anyone who wishes to take their creative career seriously!

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer nor a legal expert!  If you wish to read the actual law, I recommend going to this website to read it.  Be warned, the full PDF is 366 pages long!

The Basics

copyright-logoTo sum it up, intellectual copyright law means that any original work created by an individual is their property the moment it is created in a tangible medium, and essentially is automatically copyrighted to that individual.  Now there are exceptions, not the least of which is that if you create something at work related to your work, more often than not that something belongs to the company, not you.

Also note that copyright law does not protect ideas: it has to be presented in a solid, tangible medium.  So if you have an idea for a story or character, you can tell others about it verbally but the copyright doesn’t belong to you yet.  Once you write the story out, then the copyright applies.  After all, claiming you had an idea first without tangible evidence will not hold up on a courtroom.

In any case, the beauty of this law is that anything you create is automatically copyrighted to you – you do not have to file a patent for every story you write, or every painting you create, or every song you develop, etc.

Covering Yourself

There is a bit of a ‘however’ in this whole deal: the burden of proof.  If it comes down to it and you find yourself in court, either as a plaintiff or defendant, you need to be able to prove not only that you created it but, more importantly, when you created it.

How?  For writers who use word processing programs (rather than hand-writing or typing on a typewriter), there is something hidden within your document called metadata, which identifies who created the document (tied to the user account you log into on your computer) as well as when it was created and when it was last modified.

However, I’m a big fan of CYA, or Cover Your Assets (yes, I know the ‘A’ usually means something else :p ).  One method of proof is not sufficient to me, I want there to be no doubt.  So my suggestion to everyone is simple: using a webmail account (take your pick, yahoo, gmail, what ever your provider of choice!) to email your work to yourself.  At a minimum, email your first draft, but I would recommend doing this for every major draft.

Why do this?  For starters, as long as you never delete the email containing the attachment, and as long as your email account never disappears, you will always have a time-stamp associated with your creation.  (A way to double your chances of never losing this proof, email it to more than one webmail account across multiple providers!)  This combined with your document’s metadata will stand up well in court and give you an excellent case.

This can be done with more than just written works.  Anything digital, such as digital artwork, digitally-created sheet music, engineering drafts, you name it.  But this can also be done with creations made outside of the digital world!  All you need is a camera or some method of digitally recording your creation (scanner, digital audio recorder, digital video recorder), and then you have a digital file you can email to yourself.

The bonus to the email method is that you also now have a backup of your work.  I cannot stress this enough:

Make backups of your work!!!

I personally have all of my stories saved on two computers, a jump drive, plus email, and then a hard copy for worst-case scenarios.  If you’re nervous about someone hacking your account and stealing your work, password protect your file (make sure you use a password that is different from your email account’s, and use a strong password!)

That’s all for now.  I hope you found this article useful!  If you liked it, please click “like” below, and subscribe to my blog by clicking the link on the left side of this website :)  Do you have other suggestions, or is there a mistake in my article?  As always, please feel free to leave comments!  :)

Thanks for reading,

3 thoughts on “Copyright Law – Helping Those Who Help Themselves”

  1. Thank you for sharing this. As a crafter, and friend to many other crafters, this is incredibly useful.

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