To round out this week chock full of discussion posts, and because my girl Linda expressed interest in wanting to know more, I want to talk a bit about copyright laws and how they differ from trademarks which I discussed yesterday.
To start, this is the copyright symbol:
We’ve all seen it and some of us even use it for some of the content we posts in our blogs. The official definition as defined by the United States Government is as follows:
Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.
So, what does this mean? It means that if you create an original work, whether it’s published or not, it’s still copyrighted. This applies to poetry, music, books, songs, software, movies… the list goes on. The term you’re most likely familiar with is called intellectual property and means it is protected under law. Now, the list of things that are able to be copyrighted are pretty much a form of art right; as in it’s some form of artistic expression. For example, all 300+ of my blog posts are my forms of artistic expression right? So that means all my stuff is automatically copyrighted right?
If you answered right, you’d be wrong. Sorry to break it to you but copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, theories, symbols, phrases, facts and other similar things along those lines. This means that even though I typed up some pretty cool life stories or suggested some ideas on my blog, I can’t claim official copyright and if someone decided to copy pasta my post and call it their own, there’s nothing I can do about it besides ask them nicely to take it down and hope for the best. Domain names are not even protected under copyright law so all our WordPress names we so cleverly came up? Not covered even though they are original.
Now, I know what you’re thinking here. Did I not just say original authorship works whether published or unpublished are automatically copyrighted? Well, yes I did but a post published on a website is considered an original idea, not an original work even if its stories or a logo design you made, it can be duplicated on someone else’s website without consequences. Logo designs actually can be protected but that falls under trademark territory as does words and phrases but it’s a process to get that certificate; as mentioned in the previous post. Copyright law can’t help with that.
However, there is a bit of a silver lining where copyright on websites are concerned. If you post a lot of photos or a compilation of serials, you can file to have the page on which these appear on copyrighted. But remember, even if you just use the symbol and someone comes along and steals your work, you can fight them if and only if you file for a copyright certificate or have already obtained one. Otherwise, you’re a bit SOL to put it simply.
When a copyright is filed, the information becomes public record. It also means the hard copy you sent becomes the property of the United States Government. They do not give it back so if you want to file for copyright, make sure it’s your best version. This also means that you filed the application, paid the fee, it was approved, you got your certificate and the whole country knows that that piece of art belongs to you. If someone would like to use it or reference it in their own piece of expression, they have to get permission to do so and once a copyright is public record, so is information like your name, phone number and address which makes it easy for an individual to try and get said permission. You can file for a copyright under a pseudonym and use a different address such as a post office box if you don’t want your personal details out in the world. This is what a lot of authors do when they copyright their books.
So remember when you see the little © symbol in a book, it only applies to the content on the inside. The book cover, title and logo are not copyrighted. Those fall under trademark laws. In the case of the cockygate author, her content is most likely copyrighted but her cover art, the title and logos of her book are not. She filed for a trademark for the word “cocky” and, as I said in yesterday’s post, you can trademark a word or phrase while your application is pending using the ™ symbol but it’s not official until you get a certificate of registration in the mail showing the ® symbol.
Generally, anyone can file for a trademark or a copyright but remember, this is not an automatic approval process. You really need to show sound reasoning or, in the case of copyrights, physical copies of your work in order to get even a sliver of consideration. My mother sees trademark applications come across her desk everyday and she said it can take literal years to get a trademark whereas hard copies of original works are a bit easier to wade through. And yes, to reiterate again, words in the dictionary can be trademarked to a certain extent (example: apple is trademarked) but you’d have to be really convincing to get approved.
Isn’t the law just a boat load of fun?
I hope you all enjoyed all the educational posts this week. Hope it wasn’t too much of an overload and hey! tomorrow we get to see some fun stuff cause it’s TGIF or Facebook Friday around these parts and I’ve got at least one share guaranteed to make you laugh.
What do you think about copyright law? Does it make you want to copyright some of your own works? Let me know in the comments below!