Saturday, August 7, 2010

Top Four Questions About Copyright (with Answers)

St. Louis Writers Guild today hosted Mark Sableman, attorney from the offices of Thompson & Coburn, who discussed publishing contracts and copyright law. He answered many questions and cleared up a lot of myths about copyright. I'm passing along his answers to four of the most-asked questions:

1. At what point in writing something can I claim a copyright?
As soon as you write it on paper or save it on your computer's hard drive it is copyrighted in your name. This is called "fixed expression in a tangible medium."

2. How can I best protect my written work so nobody steals it -- or if they do, I can sue them?
File a copyright form, Form CO, from, and upload your text; online filing will cost $35. Filing by postal mail is more complicated and higher-priced. Do it within the first 90 days after completing a work and then, if you someday have to sue for infringement, you may collect money (statutory damages) -- if you can prove they actually did it and that it caused you to lose money. You can't sue for damages just because they used your work without permission.

3. Can I legally prove my copyright by mailing myself a copy of my text?
No. Absolutely not. That's an old myth.

4. How long before my copyright expires?
This law has changed this several times, but currently, it's the author's life plus 70 years.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Catherine. I wasn't able to make that workshop.