Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Poor Man's Copyright is useless, no matter what 'experts' tell you

 
http://www.bookmakingblog.com/2014/04/the-poor-mans-copyright-is-useless-no.html

by Michael N. Marcus


The practice of mailing a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.”

Ignorant authors assume that the postal service’s cancellation date on the stamped envelope proves that the document inside was created prior to the cancellation date, and that authors can use that date in a suit for copyright violation.

Its cost is merely the price of a stamp (currently 49 cents in the USA) and an envelope (currently as little as 40 for a buck at Dollar Tree).

While 52 cents is much less than the cost of a real copyright from the U.S. Library of Congress, the 52 cents is a complete waste of money, time and emotion. It accomplishes nothing!
  • The scheme has a fundamental flaw because anyone can mail an empty, unsealed envelope, receive it, store it and years later insert a document and seal the stamped-and-canceled envelope. Judges and defense attorneys know this.
There is no provision in the American copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and the “poor man’s copyright” is not a substitute for proper registration with the Library of Congress.

Sadly, the poor man's myth survives and is perpetuated by ignorant publishing 'experts.'
  • Helen Gallagher’s fault-filled book, Release Your Writing, mentions the poor man’s copyright as a supplement to a real copyright to prove when a document was created. It’s a waste of postage.
  • The following dangerous and naive misinformation was posted on the Facebook page of Peppertree Press, and on the blog of Peppertree boss Julie Ann Howell: "My favorite way to copyright might sound old fashioned; however... it works. Print out your manuscript and then mail it to yourself and do not open it. Tuck it away in a drawer. It will stand up in a court of law." BULLSHIT!
  • Nathan, a foolish "writer and film director" provides visual instructions for achieving non-protection on the YouTube ExpertVillage channel. He is not an expert on copyrights.

The poor man's copyright process is not the only copyright myth.

Some people believe that a creative work must be registered with the government to be protected by copyright. That’s not true. Your precious work is legally protected from copycats from the moment of creation without your having to fill out any forms or having to pay even one penny to the Feds. Your work is copyrighted even if you don’t put the © copyright symbol on it.

However, there are still advantages to going through a formal copyright registration, particularly if you end up suing for copyright infringement.

Copyright registration is voluntary. Many people choose to register their works because they want to have the facts of their copyright as a public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. If registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. Registration within 90 days gives you the most protection.

The fee for filing a copyright application online, using the new electronic Copyright Office (eCO), is just $35. The fee is $65 if you register with a paper application.
  • Self-publishing companies often charge much more to get a copyright. CrossBooks charges $204. Xlibris charges $249 or more. Schiel & Denver (apparently defunct) charged $250.
  • Online legal services supplier LegalZoom charges $149.
  • It takes less than 15 minutes to register a copyright online with the Library of Congress. 
By custom (not by law), if you publish a book during the last three or four months of the year, you can use a copyright date of the next year. This makes the book seem to be a year fresher as it ages. However, DON’T register it until the year shown in the book.


Copyright Office websitewww.copyright.gov 
Electronic Copyright Office: www.copyright.gov/eco/notice.html 
Physical Address:

U.S. Copyright Office
101 Independence Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000
Phone: 202-707-3000
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