Did You Know?

What does copyright mean?


Copyright is a legal right created by the law of a country, that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution, usually for a limited time, with the intention of enabling the creator (e.g. sculptor of a statue, work for hire contract) to receive compensation for their intellectual effort.


In all countries where the Berne Convention standards apply, copyright is automatic, and need not be obtained through official registration with any government office. Once an idea has been reduced to tangible form, for example by securing it in a fixed medium (such as a drawing, sheet music, photograph, a videotape, or a computer file), the copyright holder is entitled to enforce his or her exclusive rights. However, while registration isn’t needed to exercise copyright, in jurisdictions where the laws provide for registration, it serves as prima facie evidence of a valid copyright and enables the copyright holder to seek statutory damages and attorney’s fees. (In the USA, registering after an infringement only enables one to receive actual damages and lost profits.)



The original holder of the copyright may be the employer of the author rather than the author himself, if the work is a “work for hire”. For example, in English law the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides that if a copyrighted work is made by an employee in the course of that employment, the copyright is automatically owned by the employer which would be a “Work for Hire.”


In 1989 the United States enacted the Berne Convention Implementation Act, amending the 1976 Copyright Act to conform to most of the provisions of the Berne Convention. As a result, the use of copyright notices has become optional to claim copyright, because the Berne Convention makes copyright automatic.However, the lack of notice of copyright using these marks may have consequences in terms of reduced damages in an infringement lawsuit – using notices of this form may reduce the likelihood of a defense of “innocent infringement” being successful.


“Poor man’s copyright”


A widely circulated strategy to avoid the cost of copyright registration is referred to as the “poor man’s copyright”. It proposes that the creator send the work to himself in a sealed envelope by registered mail, using the postmark to establish the date. This technique has not been recognized in any published opinions of the United States courts. The United States Copyright Office makes it clear that the technique is no substitute for actual registration.The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office discusses the technique and notes that the technique (as well as commercial registries) does not constitute dispositive proof that the work is original nor who the creator of the work is.



Not sure if a piece is copyrighted?
If there is no copyright stamp, send us a photo of the piece and we will post it here, to see if another member may know who owns the copyright.


Do you have your own copyrights?
If you want to post your copyrighted pieces here, please contact us and we will post your items to help them from being copied.


Looking for a “work for hire” contract?
Click HERE to download a blank contract.


Want to get your design copyrighted? Click HERE to get started.
The basic registration fee for a single work by a single author is $35