Register Website Content and Website Copyright Law Print

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This Document was written July 2008
Please Reference the Links Given to confirm that the laws discussed are still in effect.

Register Copyrights Online at the U.S. Copyright Office

World Intellectual Property Organization Canada Research on Website Copyright Law

What the heck is a Copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U. S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works

Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright. In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author. source:

Copyright of Website Content or "Online Works"

Under U. S. law, copyright protection subsists from the time the work is fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which it can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Copyright registration is not mandatory, but it has important benefits. For general information about copyright, request Circular 1, Copyright Basics. See “For Further Information” on page 4 on how to obtain circulars and other information. source:

U.S. Copyright Law

United States copyright law does not require that the creator of a work register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office.  U.S. law provides that when a work is created, the work is protected automatically by U.S. copyright law without the need to register the work or display a copyright notice.  Copyright protection attaches to a work when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time, whether or not the author uses the "©" symbol or the copyright notice. source:

On Berne Copyright Law

In 1989, the U.S. 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. source:

From the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Org.)

{blah blah} .. Secretariat of WIPO .. drawn to the fact that certain organizations issue certificates purporting to grant copyright protection. ... these certificates do not create any right. ... works are protected without any formality in all the countries party to that Convention. This means that international copyright protection is automatic, it exists as soon as a work is created, and this principle applies in all the countries party to the Berne Convention.


How to Register Your Work with the U.S. Copyright Office

The U.S. Copyright Office provides an Online Registration system that is fast and cheap. You can organize your materials and submit them as one "piece of work" for a single flat fee ( $35 as of July 2008 )

The U.S. CO Online Registration system called the Electronic Copyright Office or "eCO" can be found here:

The Poor Man's Copyright Method

There is also a "Poor Man's Copyright" which is not discussed by the U.S. Copyright Office (nor recommended), but for all "Common Sense" purposes can be considered a great "backup" if nothing else. Make printed copies of all your materials (with the copyright notice on the materials), seal them in a U.S. Post Office provided package / envelope, and mail them to yourself. DO NOT OPEN the package when you receive it - DUH! Theoretically, you can present these materials in a case, using the post date as proof that the materials were in your posession at that time. After all, the U.S. Post Office is a respected agency... Right?


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