What is Copyright Protection?
Copyright is a basic right and a form of protection provided to all the creators of original works. Being an owner, you have the exclusive right to make copies, display and sell your pictures. Nobody else can do so unless they have permission from the creator or someone who has derived the rights through the creator.
Copyright law differs from one country to another. There are some general rules and directives which might be applicable, for example, in the entire European Union but then they might be interpreted differently. Each European Union country has its own legislation system and, consequently, its own copyright law. However, these systems are highly unified and the basic copyright laws are very similar in each member state. It takes a while to get to know all the regulations and there is no need to learn them by heart but it is important to be comfortable with global copyright issues. When it comes to the US and Canada, these neighbouring countries have a lot in common in terms of the copyright law but if you want to read more about the difference you will find a summary here.
The most important convention which regulates the copyright law is the Berne Convention. The protection for the members’ (from over 100 countries) for their works is applicable for at least the creator’s lifetime plus 50 years.
Do I need to put ‘©’ next to my work to have my rights protected?
Until 1st March, 1989, a published work had to include a valid copyright notice. Such an obligation does not apply anymore. You also do not need to put your name next to your work. Everything that is created in a tangible form is immediately under the copyright protection, but a copyright notice may help you claim and proof your rights in case they get violated. Remember that thoughts and ideas cannot be copyrighted. So make your ideas alive and tangible. Get things done before someone else does it before you. Also, remember that patents refer to an invention are are governed by different rules.
Once the valid notice is included, such arguments as: ’I did not know this work was copyrighted!’ or ’I couldn’t identify the creator…’ will not be taken into consideration in court, when you’re fighting to get back the money you deserve from your stolen photos.
Putting a copyright symbol next to your work can also discourage some from stealing your picture. They might think twice or contact you to obtain a license for a particular picture.
Was it always a capitalized ‘C’ letter in a circle?
The symbol – in the form as we know it today – was introduced in the US in 1909. Initially, it only applied to pictorial, graphic and sculptural works. With the amendment published in 1954, the usage of the © was extended to any type of work created, published and copyrighted. What’s interesting, since the © symbol has not been available on a typewriter and ASCII-based computer systems for a long time, it became a common practice to replace it with the C in brackets: (C). The practice has been approved by the US Copyright Office under the 1909 and 1976 Copyright Acts. If you want more details about the evolution of the symbol, you will find them here.
Do I need to register my work in the copyright office?
There is no such obligation since the copyright is guaranteed automatically once the work is produced in a tangible form. It is not obligatory but may speed up the process of claiming your rights.
If you are a US citizen and want to enhance your copyright protection, you can register your work in the US Copyright Office. You do not need to worry, it does not take much time to register your works. There are three important parts to the registration: an application form, a nonrefundable filing fee and a nonreturnable deposit (picture copies). You may apply in two ways: digital and analogue. Online registration through the electronic Copyright Office is faster and cheaper – the proceeding time should be shorter and the fee is lower. You can find more details in this article.
Want to know more?
Copyright law is a broad topic. This article covers some crucial issues but in case you want to know more, check out Frequently Asked Questions About Copyright and our answers.