Free Copyright Protection: How to Protect Your Electronic Works (Blogs, Documents, etc.)

Intellectual property theft, known as Plagiarism is a great threat to all people, especially the Internet entrepreneurs like us. When a blogger becomes popular, this threat is at its peak. Most or all of the articles he produces daily get copied, and the copyists enjoy good content. This is now a great trouble for popular bloggers out there. (Here is what Darren Rowse of Problogger wrote about this issue. Here is another article from Problogger.)

Google and other search engines rank the copying websites low, and may penalize them. So, it is not only ill-advised to copy others’ content, but also very dangerous. So, I would suggest all bloggers to be careful, and not copy content from A-list bloggers out there.

Introduction to Copyright

Copyright LogoCopyright is a universal enforcement to protect the intellectual property rights of content creators. It means “The right to copy.” Only the original creator of the work gets the right to copy the work anywhere else (that is, unless he sells that right). No one else holds any right to his creation. If anyone wishes to publish it, he has to get a written permission from the creator. Publishing without this permission is treated as an intellectual property theft.

Copyright is a fully automatic enforcement. It exists as soon as any intellectual creation is put down in a tangible form. That means, as soon as you create an article, story, poem, music, design, movie, or any other intellectual creation, your copyright is automatically established, and you don’t need a registration for that at all. The copyright registration (which is available for a payment) is only a proof to establish your authority on the work, and not an obligation. Without registration, you can protect your work—copyright protection and copyright registration are different things. To protect your creations, there should be a verifiable proof of your ownership of the work.

For your copyright to be established automatically, as I said, you have to put down your idea in a tangible form. This means, you have to write down your article (with of course a clear verifiable date), record your music, video, etc. On the other hand, if you disclose the idea to anyone and he puts it down in tangible form, he becomes the owner of the content and not you. So, it is very important that you put down the idea in verifiable form before exposing it.

Poor Man’s Copyright (PMC)

In case of blogs like these, the date and time of publication is enough to establish the copyright. In case of paper documents, there is a practice followed to prove copyright, known as “Poor man’s copyright” (PMC).

In this, you are expected to send your creation in a registered mail to yourself. The postmark will then establish the copyright. But there are several ways to fake this, and so it is not generally considered as a solid proof. In case of non-digital works, it is best to register your copyright manually.

Copyright Registration

The copyright registration for all sorts of intellectual property works is available from the US Copyright Office website. This is a paid service. There are many websites, which can help you register with the Copyright Office. They will do all the paperwork for you for specified fees. Here are some of these sites:

http://www.gocopyright.com/

http://www.copyrightregistrationservice.com/

http://www.copyright-india.com

http://www.worldwideocr.com/

http://www.copyrightwitness.com/register/

http://www.dulynoted.co.uk/

http://www.dulyregistered.co.uk/ (Registers your digital creations like blogs and websites).

All these services will register your creations with the US Copyright Office for specific period (such as ten years or five years) for specified fees.

In case of published books like novels, academic books, etc., the publisher automatically registers the writer’s copyright with the US Copyright Office, and the writer needn’t worry about that at all.

Alternative to Copyright

Creative Commons LicenseThough this is not a perfect alternative to copyright, it is an effective way to protect your license on your creations. This is Creative Commons License. Creative Commons License is an open publication license available to everyone. It exists only if you own the copyright of the work. It is meant to reserve “some rights” other than the normal “all rights” in copyright. But it is an effective way to tell the world that your work is licensed to you.

You will find a Creative Commons logo in the left sidebar here, as my license on this blog. If you need to reproduce articles on this blog, you will click on that logo.

Free Copyright Protection for Blogs and Websites

Now, we come to the core part of this article. How you can protect the copyright of your blogs and your websites free. In case of non-digital creations, you cannot do this, but for blogs and websites, it is easy to do.

MyFreeCopyright is a service that you can use to protect your blogs’ and websites’ copyright. This is not a copyright registration service. As I said earlier, registration of copyright is different from protection. Whether you registered or not, you are the owner of your work, and can protect it. The only thing required for your copyright protection is a verifiable authority that asserts your creation date and time.

MyFreeCopyright can help you in that. Using this service, in three steps you can protect your copyright. Firstly, your original creation (blog entries, documents, music, etc) are uploaded to MyFreeCopyright secure server. Secondarily, a digital fingerprint of this creation is captured and stored in the server and emailed to you (you have to keep this email secure). That’s it, your work is protected. To tell the world that your work is copyrighted, you can display a logo from MyFreeCopyright.

In case of blogs, MyFreeCopyright is best because, you can get all your blog posts protected with this service with just one registration. You needn’t submit every article you write on your blog to them. Their feed fetcher automatically fetches and protects all your blog articles.

However, this is a free service and has its limitations. You are not registered to the US Copyright Office through this. Only a record for verification of your copyright is created. You can use this verification as a strong point in plagiarism cases (if they reach the court). Most of the plagiarism issues are dealt with outside the court, by demanding the blogger to remove the copied content.

But plagiarism continues to be a threat. It accounts for loss of billions of dollars worldwide, every year. It is a growing concern of search engines as well as A-list websites and blogs and all kinds of content creators. Darren (in the article I linked above) has given some nifty tips to fight the trouble.


Image Credit: Seoco.co.uk

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

9 Opinions:

  1. I hadn't heard of MyFreeCopyright before but I'm not surprised either.

    It would be useful if you could describe the pros and cons of that versus Creative Commons, which I use.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Ari,

    They are two different things actually. Creative Commons is meant for reserving some rights and giving some other rights to people (like publishing content giving credit to us as author) In CC we don't give out the full rights, but some rights.

    Copyright on the other hand is meant to reserve "All Rights" over the work. CC is only an addition over copyright. It exists only if there is copyright on the document. We as bloggers don't worry about the copyright because it is generally protected for us, since the electronic timestamp is there. In MyFreeCopyright, this timestamp is taken and protected in a digital form, so, it is a valid source for verifying copyright. It's not for "Registering" copyright, because effectively you don't need to register the copyright to protect it. It's only for protecting copyright.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This article is very helpful. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Timestamps on blogs can be faked, of course, so the real value of myfreecopyright is that it adds a timestamp verification. However, copyright lasts beyond the creator's lifetime and I'd be wary of entrusting any copyright protection to an organisation that hasn't yet proved its longevity. It's great that service is there, but it will only really demonstrate its worth when they've helped writers in court to defend their work in a plagiarism case. Until then, it's unproven.

    Also, it has a misleading copyright check - if you search for a site that's not registered with it, it says 'No copyright was found for the submitted url', even if that site has (C) statements all over it.

    In the UK, copyright subsists in a work the moment it's created without any need for registration. The advice used to be to post the work to yourself in a registered mail envelope, so the post stamp would prove the date the work was sealed in there and it could be opened in court if necessary. The Society of Authors recently said in The Author magazine, though, that they weren't aware of a case where this had helped anyone and they would welcome any input from writers on this.

    Regarding creative commons, it's a great mechanism but the central flaw is that it requires you to give away rights equally to everyone. You might want to choose to give different rights to businesses and charities, and to different political groups too. I'd be concerned that my creative work could be used against the causes I truly believe in. Copyright enables you to reserve your rights, but grant them to different organisations on a case by case basis.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow Sean,

    That was quite an article itself. It's really great to see such knowledgeable people commenting on the blog. Keep coming back. Thanks a lot for the comment.

    Lenin

    ReplyDelete
  6. hi gaya,

    Thanks for the invite, you have some great informataions and policies are well and good

    Keep up good work, my best wishes

    Thanks again,
    Jag

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jag,
    thanks a lot for the comment.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great helping article thanks for the information!

    ReplyDelete
  9. You should make clear that MyFreeCopyright is not a substitute for registering your copyright. Poor man's copyright is a myth and would get tossed in court.

    Registering only gives the advantage of suing over damages. But even without registration you can force others to stop using your work. Just can't sue.

    (I like Creative Commons too, and it's a decent way to license your work for ease of distribution and having copies of your work properly attributed to you!)

    http://www.photoattorney.com/2007/01/warning-website-provides-misleading.html

    http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html

    http://www.funnystrange.com/copyright/myths.htm

    ReplyDelete

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