The Law of Copyright is dead simple: there are just TWO simple steps to take -
1) You write something down on a piece of paper - it can be in words, or a design or a logo, or a piece of music, or a stream of data to create a ring tone or a program for example. Or record it on a CD or in a computer file. Then -
2) You write 'Copyright by' [YOUR NAME] and the date at the bottom. And Voilа! That's it. This is now your copyright under the law in over 160 countries. Nobody can use this without your say-so. But there's a problem with this. A HUGE problem...
The Problem is... Proving It.
If someone rips off your copyrighted material, they're breaking the law. Simple as falling off a log. But what's not so simple is actually proving that you copyrighted your story, your song, your music, your design, your data...when you claim you did - which is why Law Courts Worldwide are overflowing with cases of Copyright Infringement.
The United States Copyright Office provides the best established copyrighting service. (Many other countries, including the UK, offer no governmental copyrighting service). In fact, if you copyright using this US system, you can qualify for statutory damages if someone steals your stuff, same as J.K.Rowling, the 'Harry Potter' lady did in September 2008.
But it's pretty expensive - $45.00 per copyright. That's not a lot to successful songwriters like Diane Warren, or to authors like J.K. Rowling, but it's a lot to creative people often struggling to pay the rent. But it DOES prove that you copyrighted your stuff when you said you did.
What the US Copyright Office is actually doing is 'bearing witness' to the fact that you are the creator of your property. Because of the massive increases in Copyright Theft, independent companies have begun to offer similar services that effectively (and legitimately) 'bear witness' to the creation of Copyright.
Theft of Intellectual Property - Copyright Property - in the 21st Century is at pandemic proportions. At a global scale that has never been seen before. An incredible 58 Billion US dollars in Copyrights were stolen in the USA alone in 2007.
58 Billion is such a massive figure as to be difficult to understand. But the reality is that 58 Billion translates into over 6.6 million dollars worth of Copyright Material being stolen every hour of every day of the year.
Although the definitive Law on Copyright is well covered and established under the Terms of 'The Berne Convention on Literary and Artistic Works', actually proving that you Copyrighted your material when you said you did can be difficult - unless you have a credible 'witness'.
A simple, easy way to actually copyright your songs is to publish them yourself on the Internet. This creates copyright (provided you state it's copyright!) but it's very dangerous too; simply stating that your song is 'Copyright by [your name here and the date]' is no threat to people who decide to steal your music.
But if you publish your music using a 'Third Party Witness', someone or some company that can independently attest to the date and place you published your songs, then you're in a very strong position. This is, of course, something that the US and Canadian Governments provide, but it's not cheap at about $50 per song.
There are Internet companies now that offer a similar service but at the fraction of the price, bearing in mind that they are usually small, efficient, enthusiastic entrepreneurs as opposed to massive Government Offices with hundreds of Civil Servants shuffling papers.
using now offers
This form of online publishing and copyright, if done properly, can effectively provide independent verification that your song's copyright existed when you say it did.
Norman MacLeod, originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a writer, author and musician living and working in Spain. In 2008 he founded intelLoc, an online Self-Publishing Service for Songwriters, Composers and Authors, having had copyright material stolen by a US-based record label. intelLoc allows Songwriters, Musicians, Lyricists and Composers to publish and copyright their material online as they actually create it for a small fee. More details at http://www.intelloc.com
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