When it comes to the copyright on your work, you automatically own all the rights. When someone tells you, "Hey, you should copyright that," what they really mean is you need to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office (in the US, obviously. Other countries have their own rules and offices for this.) You own the rights to your work when you create it. But when you register your work, this adds a small layer of protection for you. However, the story doesn't really end there. Read on to find out a little more on the topic...
Copyrights and How To Register Yours
First, what is a 'copyright'? Basically, it's the right to use your own creations in the way you choose, whether it's to make money or for more philanthropic reasons.
So why should you register your work? That seems to be the million dollar question...quite literally. It seems my preconceived ideas about creepy, half-humans lurking behind computers stealing the hard work of others isn't really accurate.
There are actually large corporations stealing the hard work of photographers and graphic artists in order to promote their own multi-million dollar corporations. I have a real problem with this. I understand a company must make money in order to survive. I also understand a larger corporation holds a larger amount of responsibility to make certain they earn enough profits to pay all their employees and cover all their expenses. What I don't understand is why they refuse to pay for the use of a photo, artwork, or video clip they feel will benefit their company.
So be aware, fellow creators! Pirates do not only lurk in their parents' basements, but also in the finest offices of million/billion dollar corporations.
I read a series of articles from the Copyright Alliance blog this morning and am blown away by how blatant piracy is and how hard it is to prosecute offenders. If you'd like to read up on what's happening in the arena of copyrights and the laws governing them, you can start here. Copyright Alliance is a great source for up-to-date info. I highly recommend signing up to their email list.
So How Do I Register My Copyright?
There are a couple of ways you can do this. The safest way, and I believe the only one that may hold up in court at this point, is to register with the U.S. Copyright Office. Simply go to their website and follow the directions. They're pretty straightforward and the process doesn't take too long. If you're an artist or photographer, or if you write lots of different things during the year, you may want to consider only registering your most important pieces. There are two different prices, at least for authors: $35 for a single item (and all files relating to that item such as cover art, illustrations, etc.) or $55 for multiple items. These fees are accurate as of the date of this posting but you can click here to find out for certain.
Is There A Way To Register Without A Fee?
There is, but you may not get the same kind of legal help you'd otherwise gain by paying for your registration. You could register your work through Creative Commons. The people who work here are dedicated to seeing creators get the recognition they deserve while also working to make more items available for public use. They have several types of licenses which are designed to encourage creators to share whenever possible. You'll notice they work with several companies, too, when you click on the link and scroll down the page. I use this site to copyright my blog and any artwork I share on my blog, except for the items I register with the US Copyright Office. You can see my little CC license in the side menu on the right side of your screen. :) I haven't opened up any of my work for public use yet. I hope to do that in the future, though.
So How Do I Combat Piracy?
The best way to combat piracy is to stay on top of things. Keep an eye on your own work. Sometimes, other creators are willing to help out if they know your work well. I've seen several instances on DeviantArt when an artist notified another of a blatant infringement. DeviantArt used to be pretty good about penalizing offenders but I haven't been on the site very often lately to know if they still do. Also, if you notice an infringement of another creator's rights, don't be afraid to speak up. That will stand you in good stead later on, I believe.
Another way to combat piracy is to stay informed. Sign up for newsletters from websites designed to help and protect creators like the blogs from Writer Beware, Creative Commons, and Copyright Alliance. You won't be sorry and you will be encouraged.
Coming This Month!
I'm so excited! One of my favorite new authors has agreed to an interview! This will be my first author interview. Every Wednesday in February, as I share my reviews of Elizabeth D. Marie's 'Crown of Stars' series, you'll be able to read short interview sessions, too. In this way, I hope to open the door to new readers of the series and shine a spotlight on one of my new favorite authors. Stay tuned!
Melody Kittles writes fantasy fiction under the name Robin McElveen. She loves God, her family, the arts, a warm cup of coffee or tea, visiting friends, and collecting coffee & Pusheen items.
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