I received a question tonight that I think came to me because of an old article on the now-defunct mycopyright.com site.
I am just in the process of learning to blog. So, I would like to know how to protect my words with copyright. Thank you.
This does not constitute legal advice, always check with your lawyer before taking any action.
Copyright depends on where you are located. The following information is what I have learned about copyright within the United States.
The old trick used to be writing a duplicate copy of your content and then mailing it to yourself in a sealed envelope so the mail is postmarked as an “official” timestamp. This is no longer necessary. By default, all written works are inherently copyrighted. You hold the copyright. Only if you explicitly state that content is free for the taking or licensed under the Creative Commons, would you possibly relinquish a copyright. You don’t have to do anything or prove anything to anybody unless the copyright comes into question.
Of course, when it comes into question is the only time it really matters. So, the advice to follow is to have it in writing on your site and preferably on every page that the content is copyrighted to you. Now, nobody can claim that they didn’t know your content was copyrighted. This simple phrase, however, won’t physically or technically prevent anybody from stealing your content. At that point, if they have reposted your content without permission and violated your copyright, you may ask them to take it down or you might file a DMCA take down request. This refers to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and provides some legal backing to request the person, their web host, their name servers, or others involved in providing the stolen content a reason to stop hosting it. These third parties would most likely prefer to delete the stolen content than go to court.
All in all, I will conclude with these tips from my experience:
- State that you reserve your copyright over the content in the footer of your site.
- Be yourself online. Legal questions have to resolve to a person and it’s easier to identify that person with a real name than an obscure nickname or username.
- Defend your content by requesting take downs when you see violations of your content.
- Prioritize. When beginning to blog, you need to learn to create great content and attract an audience. If nobody ever sees your works then you don’t have to worry about anybody stealing it either. Keep copyright concerns where they belong, in the back of your mind.
There is plenty of reading on the topic and I hope this serves to get you started on the topic.