Believe it or not, everything you've ever written, from your school notes
to family bulletins, is yours, and unless you copied it from a copyrighted source, you own the copyright. This simple legal principle is accepted in most free-world countries, but it's almost useless to you in a court of law without some sort of proof.
If you are the author, you can copyright books, poems, directories, catalogs, pamphlets, leaflets, cards, single pages and publications such as newspapers,
magazines, reviews, newsletters and bulletins. Also, scripts, lectures, sermons, maps, monologs and cartoons. In essence, you can copyright almost anything that you write or draw, provided you comply with the following procedures.
Most people do not know that you are NOT required to register the copyright with the copyright officer, but if you DO wish to register it, follow the steps provided below.You then submit
two copies of the publication along with the application form for each copyright.
1. Produce copies that contain your copyright notice.
Produce the copies by printing or any other means of reproduction. It is important that all copies contain the proper copyright notice. The copyright notice should consist of three elements.
The word "copyright", the abbreviation "copy", or the symbol "c" printed within a circle. Use of the symbol will have advantages in securing copyright in countries that are members of the Universal Copyright Convention.
The copyright owner (or owners).
The year date of publication. This is ordinarily the year in which copies are first placed on sale, sold, or publicly distributed by the copyright owner or under his authority.
These elements should appear together on the copies.
EXAMPLE: Copyright © 1998 John Smith
For a publication printed in book form, the copyright notice should appear on the title page or the page immediately following. The "page immediately following" is normally the reverse side of the page bearing the title.
2. Publish the work.
3. Register your claim in the copyright office.
Promptly after publication, you should send the following material to the Copyright Office.
Application for Registration. (For books, booklets, pamphlets, reports, etc., use form A).
Two copies of the edition of the work as published.
Registration fee of $10. Do not send cash. Payment must be in the form of a money order, check, or bank draft, payable to the "Registry of Copyrights" send everything to: Registry of Copyrights, Library of Congress, Washington DC 20540. In Canada send to Supply and Services Canada, Publishing Center, Mail Order Section, Hull QC K1A 0S1.
Copyright protection will be permanently lost unless all published copies bear a copyright in the form and position as described above. When a work has been published without notice of copyright, it falls into the public domain and becomes public property. After that happens, it serves no purpose to add the notice to copies of the work, and doing so may be illegal. For further information concerning copyright laws, write to the Registry of Copyrights (address above) for two free booklets -
General Information on Copyright, Circular 1, and - Copyright Law of the United States of America, Circular 91. Also request several applications - Form A
It is not necessary to add the legal warning which we use, however. you can protect your copyright cheaply, and with a high degree of legal protection, by sealing the item to be copyrighted in a tamper-proof envelope, stamping the envelope over any point where
the envelope could be opened, having your postal clerk postmark the stamps over the seal points, and mailing it back to yourself.
Label the envelope for future reference, and if you can, smudge the fresh postmark ink so there's a gray blotch between stamp and envelope. It can be scrutinized in court for tampering, and any half-decent forensic scientist will be able to shoot down amy zealous attorney who tries to
prove you faked it. You can copyright whole books this way for under $2.00.
United States Copyright Office - Copyright forms
For a copy of the Copyright Act Act in Canada, and Industrial Design Branch, Bureau of Corporate Affairs, Consumer and Corporate Affairs Canada, Ottawa, ON
K1A 0C9 for general inquiries.