How to Protect Your Original Creative Work from Theft

You spend hours on original content - maybe it's a blog post, article, music, or a movie. Your work should not be something that anyone can take from you without proper compensation or permission. In an age where your art can be copied, uploaded to the web, and made available worldwide in seconds, it’s good to know you have a way to protect yourself and prevent theft or fight back if it has already occurred.

How do you make sure that your work isn't stolen and how does copyright work to your advantage?

Let's start by learning what copyright is. Copyright is a form of intellectual property rights of content creators. If anyone wants to publish original content created by someone else, they must get written permission from the creator. Copyright is actually effected automatically as long as your creation is in tangible form, it is an original work, and you are considered "the creator." Some countries provide means for registering a copyright to facilitate enforcement, but it is not explicitly necessary.

Now that you know how copyright works, what are some steps to make sure you can protect your work?

1) Make sure your work is in "tangible form"

What does "tangible form" exactly mean? Copyright doesn't cover ideas, concepts, or principles. Simply coming up with an idea doesn't make it copyrighted - the way you express it is. Remember that putting your work in a tangible form is key here. It must be put in a blog, video, recording, writing, etc.  Let's say that you attend a speech that has not been notated or recorded (which would be considered tangible), you are free to publish the speech without fear of liability. However, you should still cite the speech to avoid plagiarism. 

2) Consider registering your work 

If a theft of your intellectual property or copyright does occur, a writer must prove that the execution of the idea preceded execution by someone else. One way to legally register your work would be to use The Writers Guild of America's Registration Service registers scripts and treatments at a fairly low cost. Copyright registration, which provides additional legal protection, is available for $20 from the U.S. Copyright Office. Before you try to copyright an original work, make sure your title has not already been copyrighted. On the U.S. Copyright site, click Search Copyright Records > Search Catalog and follow the prompts.

3) What if I want to manage a copyright my way?

On the other side of the spectrum, maybe you want the world to see your original work, but you don't want people to use it commercially. You want exposure - but not have people make money with your intellectual property. If you would like people to use your work in a specific fashion, you can register it on Creative Commons. They are a non-profit organization that provides you with a way to give the public certain permissions to share and use your original creative work. Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs." It's a "Some rights reserved" approach to copyright.
 

4) How can I avoid copyright infringement myself?

Copyright infringement is something that happens all the time - a lot of times by accident. Getting permission from a creator isn't always easy either.  Want to get original image content legally? One simple way to find images that are specifically labeled for reuse is using the search tools in Google. Under the search bar in Google in "Search Tools" you can find a "Usage Rights" drop down menu. This will help make sure that when using an image, it isn't infringing copyright law.

 

Preventing copyright infringement and protecting your intellectual property is not a simple task. With today's technology, virtually anything can be copied easily. Occasionally do a Google search by entering some blocks of text and/or images from your work to make sure it hasn't been copied. Being proactive and taking the proper steps to protect your work are the best things you can do to assure that your intellectual property is safe.

http://wiki.creativecommons.org/FAQ#How_do_CC_licenses_operate.3F

http://creativecommons.org/

http://wga.org/

http://www.copyright.gov/

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