Creativity is one of the human traits that can apply to any area of one’s life. Creative people have two tendencies. Firstly, they are capable of envisioning something new and different, such as a new way of doing something, or a new idea, or a new way of expressing their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Secondly, they want to share their new insights with the world. Most people who have the creative gene also have the tendency to want credit for their creativity. This is where the wonderful world of copyrights comes into play.
Copyrights can be thought of as intellectual property rights. They are “deeds” that are issued to authors of original material in several categories including but not limited to art, music, literature, and drama. The copyright protection is available to published and unpublished works alike, but only applies once the material has been placed on some form of tangible media. This can be in the form of recordings on tape or CD, film and digital media, paper or just about anything that can be seen. Once the material has been recorded by one of these methods, fundamental rights are inherently issued to the original author. In other words, no registration is necessary in order to claim a copyright or to be protected by Copyright law, but there are definite advantages to placing registration for the piece. Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim, and registration must be made before a case can appear in a court case. Court enforced judgments can be affected by the timing of the registration. Filing a registration just before litigation may lessen the credibility of the claimant somewhat. The registration process involves remitting an application, registration fee ($45.00), and two copies of the work in the same envelope to the Copyright Office.
Another once-commonly used method of proving ownership and claiming copyright protection is called the “Poor man’s copyright”. This entailed placing the material into a sealed envelope and mailing it to one’s self, then storing the sealed envelope until it was needed to prove ownership. But just as anything else, the criminal mind devised a way to forge this form of copyright by mailing an unsealed envelope to himself then placing whatever contents inside to suit the purpose. Therefore, a poor man’s copyright is not a strong form of proof of ownership.
In summation, once the creation is placed on a visible medium, copyright laws apply and the author is entitled to document this on their work, but registration provides positive proof of the authorship and is necessary before any litigation can take place. The courts are full of cases that involve copyright infringement and many notable cases have been in the news regarding the music and film industry among others. In answer to the question, “Do I need a copyright?”, it boils down to one thing: What is it worth to you to protect your personal creativity and intellectual property?