Cubicle Copyright Myths

What you don’t know that you don’t know—or what you think you know that is actually false—will probably be the source of any copyright headaches. However, you shouldn’t feel alone. Copyright laws cannot keep up with the online world; for that reason, they tend to remain vague, rarely providing concrete lists of do’s and don’ts. The following are a few myths I’d like to dispel for you:

Myth 1: Things are not protected by copyright unless and until they are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office and/or carry the © symbol. Wrong. Since 1989, almost all things are automatically copyrighted the moment they are created—and no copyright notice is required.

Myth 2: I can protect my copyright with a Poor Man’s Copyright; I can simply mail myself a copy of the work and make sure the postmark is legible, thereby establishing the date I created it. If challenged, I’ll just open the envelope in front of the judge. This tactic is absolutely not effective. As clever as it may sound, it has never worked—for too many reasons to enumerate here. Yet this myth persists, and by doing so, it gives people a false sense of security. If you determine that registration is, in fact, desirable because you anticipate legal action, seek another alternative to a full registration that is effective. Better yet, invest in a good lawyer.

Myth 3: If it’s on the Internet, it’s “public domain” and copyright free. Nope. Things do not become public domain (and therefore copyright free) until ...

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