The basis for copyright law in the USA is found in the United States Constitution in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 as follows:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

The first copyright law was the Copyright Act of 1790. We are currently operating under the Copyright of 1976 as amended.

Copyrights have a term of the life of the author plus 70 years. We Boomers can thank Sonny Bono (Sonny and Cher) for this. The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998—alternatively known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act set the current term of copyrights.

When you write original content, it is copyrighted even if you do not specify “Copyright” or use the “circle C” © copyright symbol.

However, it is best to declare your works are copyrighted. The proper way to do this is “Copyright © (Date of first Creation) ( Name of author).

The best way to approach using any information that you have not created yourself is to consider that it is copyrighted.

To copyright an item, you must establish a dated record of some type when you first created the item so you can prove the date of the copyright if someone challenges you. The earliest date will get the copyright. Before computers, a technique was to write the piece and have it notarized or witnessed. Another technique was to enclose the item in an envelope and mail it to yourself. The postmark established the date.

Now we have computers that record the date of file creation for anything we record on them. This date becomes the date of the copyright.

All you have to do to copyright something is to create it and follow the previously specified procedure by specifying “Copyright © (Date of first Creation) ( Name of author)” Use of the copyright symbol is not required.

The following procedure is for MS Word: To insert the copyright symbol, click Insert on the tool bar, Click Symbol on the dropdown and you will be presented a table of all kinds of symbols. Highlight the “circle C” and click the Insert button and the © will appear where your cursor is located. You will have to click on the Close button to close the Symbol box.

There, that was easy. Now start creating content on which you can proudly hang that “circle C”.

Copyright 2006 John Howe, Inc.