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Article.... "Copyright? Why Bother?"

LA Ridge
This is an article I wrote that was directed at the music industry, but can be related to other areas as well.

“Copyright? Why Bother?”
By Aaron Ridgway

I said I would write an article, and by God I will!

We all think about it, we all claim to have it. What is it really? A copyright of course is designed to protect you as a writer, or artist, from the usage of your work by others for personal gain. So let’s explore this, shall we?

What is copyright eligible and what is not? Well, that’s a gray area really. As little as four measures of music or a half completed novel could and does complete the requirement for protection under the act. The simple rule is that once you have created a work, as a partial or complete implement, it is considered a protected article under the statute. That means that everything is under copyright protection if you are the original creator of said work.

So why is there a gray area? The bulk of that question is answered only after a court decision has set certain precedent, or starting point of determination as to what is, sounds like, looks like, one work or the other. These battles of course have been going on in our courts for years. The bar rises and lowers based on many contributing factors. But the bottom line is one of personal perception by the presiding judge based on a preponderance of evidence. Or in other words… If it looks like a duck, it is probably a duck!

So with a broad spectrum of statistics that encompass a copyright, what is the purpose, and why would a person bother to get some form of formal copyright? The answer lies in one rule that really says it all. If you create a work of art or a document, you have already created a copyright without doing a single thing other than creation itself. If another party uses that work there are two things you would want to do. One of those things would be to have the individual cease and desist from using your work further. The other would be to recoup your losses should that individual obtain financial gain by using your creation.

Under the current statute, you can get that party to cease using your material immediately in writing, if, and only if, you can prove by dated archive that you created the work on a specific date/time. That can be done and enforced by court action without the need for a formal copyright registered in the Library of Congress. But that is all you can do without the proper device in hand. You cannot at this time collect any money made prior to the actual filing of the copyright.

Is that the final word regarding financial loss through usage of your work by unlawful means? No! Under current law you can file for a formal copyright THE DAY BEFORE you file a motion in civil court and if a determination is made in your favor, (which it most likely will be), then you will be able to recoup your losses from said infringement of your rights. Actually getting money from the other party is a whole other story that may be fodder for another article. But those are the rules as they stand today.

There would be, and definitely are exceptions to the general rules above. No court action is ever that simple, or handled without a lot of money being spent. Some of the actions of course you could do yourself, but as our litigious society has proven from time to time, “My Lawyer can beat up your Lawyer,” and so that is always the determining factor. It always boils down to the term “due diligence” and those of us who are proactive have at least a head start in any battle that may occur.

What can we do as average citizens to protect our hard work? What are the options available to those of us who are not Elton John, or Sony Records? Well first and foremost you MUST archive EVERYTHING. Sites like Music Forte’ and AcidPlanet are a start, but you must do more to be safe. The websites I just mentioned date stamp everything generally and that is a good thing. There is what is well known to us artists that in the past were called “The poor mans copyright.” That simply consists of mailing a CERTIFIED letter to you residence with the work enclosed. And you must NEVER open it! This is good. There is a tool that I highly recommend that is called Creative Commons. It is an invention of the Open Source community that was developed to protect shareware and open source computer software. They have recently branched out to all areas of created work and they offer many advantages over the formal copyright process. It can all be done with the click of a mouse in seconds! You will have a copyright and archiving on a date stamped site. It is a wonderful alternative to the formal process. And it’s free. Here is the link. . Well worth checking out.

The final and most durable solution would be to obtain a formal copyright from the Library of Congress. It is not as difficult or expensive as one might think. Here is the link for that . They provide a lot of information available to read and you can download any of it for your records. They have a sign up for a news update and so on. Highly recommended place for you to visit.

In conclusion it could be said that most artists will never have to deal with the issue of copyright infringement. So many of us create for the sheer joy of having people listen and respect our talent. If the day ever came that a known artist or record company wanted to buy our work we may not even know how to act, or may pass out and go into shock and never recover! But to those of us who have an ambition to one day sell a song or some other creation, it is to you that I say… Be safe and be proactive.

Copyright 2005
Aaron Ridgway
Music Forte, Inc.
Thanks for posting the article. Very insightful. Smile
LA Ridge
Thank you for reading it! Hope you get some benefit from it that may help you or someone you know in the future.

It's a really simple process actually. Too simple really, but as the laws stand that is what it is. Thanks again for reading it...
useful article. thanks mate.
LA Ridge
Thank you for appreciating it and taking time out of your day to review it! I am very glad that you are able to find some use for it.
LA Ridge
This wasn't a popular or interesting as I hoped it would be. There are a lot of things you should protect. Artwork is one. Articles and writing of all types. Music is what we think of most for sure. But all works can be protected to some degree from theft. It may be a hard road to get it stopped, but you can at least do the best you can.

I have some other topics to lay down. I am getting back here after a little time off to finish some of my own stuff.
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