Many people wonder how to copyright their articles - or any written works, for that matter - in order to protect their work from theft or reproduction. In reality, the process of copyrighting could not be more effortless. Technically, your article is copyrighted from the moment you first create it as a visible written work. From that moment onward, nobody can legally reproduce it without your consent. If your article was written in 1978 or after, its automatic copyright protection will last for seventy years after your death.
Because this is not as widely known as it could be, however, you would be wise to take a step or two toward proclaiming your copyright more strongly. Here's what you can do to copyright your article and leave no doubt about it.
- Add a © to the bottom of your text, along with the year of publication and your name. Instead of the circled-C symbol, you can also simply write "Copyright" followed by the other date/name information. You don't have to get permission from the U.S. Copyright Office to place this notice of copyright at the end of your article; it requires no registration or other action through that office.
Many people refrain from leaving this kind of mark since the copyright technically exists without it. However, if you are worried that others may not be aware of your copyright without making note of it thusly, then by all means do so for your own peace of mind. If you end up in court as a victim of copyright infringement, the perpetrator will not be able to claim what is called "innocent infringement" (ignorance as to your article's copyright protection) if your notice of copyright appears with your text.
Get copyright registration through the U.S. Copyright Office. Though your article is copyrighted without a registration, getting copyright registration can allow you to enjoy other protective benefits. For example, if you end up having to sue for copyright infringement, you must first get copyright registration through the U.S. Copyright Office. And by getting copyright registration, you create a public record of the copyright. To get copyright registration is to protect your article to the fullest possible extent.
In order to get copyright registration, visit the U.S. Copyright Office website. There, you can print out the appropriate application form for registration of your copyright. Follow the instructions provided on the site to choose the correct form. Your choice depends upon three things:
- Whether you are the sole author (and no one else can claim copyright ownership).
- Whether the article was made for hire.
- Whether the article is entirely new.
Submit the application along with the $45.00 fee and the proper number of copies of your article, as specified on the Copyright Office website (the number of copies required depends upon the date of first publication, if applicable). If you don't follow the guidelines for submission, the Office will return your application, fee and copy/copies without granting copyright registration.
Consider your options and weigh the benefits as you decide whether you are comfortable without notice, prefer to provide notice of copyright on your article, or would rather pay the fee to get copyright registration through the U.S. Copyright Office. But remember, regardless of whether you have a © after your article or have copyright registration, your article is copyrighted.