Do you need to copyright your work?

The Copyright ACT of 1976 was enacted October 19, 1976. It basically stated that all work was copyrighted (protected) the moment it was “fixed in any tangible medium.” (That is, on paper, computer, audible, video, etc.).

It seems that’s fine as long as you don’t intend to sue anyone for copyright infringement.

Just recently the Supreme Court decided you cannot sue unless you have a copyright registration certificate for the work. That’s a registration certificate, not just that you’ve applied for one. (It used to be a writer would apply for one if/when someone infringed on the work.)

Go to the following sites for more information.

It took me several months before I received the actual certificate for the book I recently registered. You can sue once you receive that certificate, but if it’s several months after you discover the infringement, that’s not good.

Some writers have said it only took 2-3 months before they received their certificates, but if there’s a rush on the Copyright office…well, you can guess what that will mean.

One more worry for writers.

Comments welcome


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6 Responses to Copyright

  1. Lisa Ray says:

    Maris, do you know if this ruling also applies to artists who paint, draw, etc. their artwork pieces? I ask as I know of several artists who have recently found the paintings they painted used overseas without prior consent in a number of quilts. Over half a dozen dog paintings by several different artists have been used together in one quilt with none of the artists getting paid for their images. One artist was basically told they were out of luck as it is happening in Thailand and not here on US soil. 🙁

    • Maris Soule says:

      Lisa, I do not know one way or the other, but that is very upsetting since I have a couple paintings I’ve done that are on Pinterest. I wonder if any of them are now overseas.

  2. Maris Soule says:

    I’m sorry, Jacqueline. I wish I had certificates for all of mine.

  3. Greta Picklesimer says:

    I thought sending a copy to oneself through the mail served as a copyright. Does that not hold anymore? If not, then I need to stop mailing myself my work.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Greta, if you’re ever in a situation where someone has copied part or all of your story (which just recently happened to several RWA authors), you not only have to have a registered (with the U.S. Copyright Office) copyright for the book, you now must have the certificate (which will come once you do apply for and pay for the copyright (not expensive) before you can bring the suit to court. SO, no, mailing it to yourself is not legal proof in a court of law.