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Simple Ways to Protect Your Creative Work

By Stephen Bucaro
Posted Thursday, December 23, 2004

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Being productive and creative gives importance and meaning to the lives of many people. In some cases, it may also provide them with a means to earn a living. Unfortunately, other people feel that it is easier to just steal someone else's work. How can a creative individual protect their work from thieves?

Any work you create is automatically protected by copyright law from the moment you create it until 50 years after your death. To receive this protection, you must mark your work with the word "Copyright" and the copyright symbol © followed by the date that the work was created.

Obviously a thief can easily remove your copyright notice or replaced with one of their own. If legal action is required to stop a thief from using your work, you will be required to PROVE that you were the original creator of the work.

Proof of original authorship includes anything that can be accepted as evidence in court. Along with witnesses, you can submit sales receipts, and email or postal messages related to the work. If a customer returns your material, you should save the receipt and packing material as possible evidence.

A common method of establishing proof of authorship is to mail or ship yourself a copy or photograph of the work. The postmark or shipping seal on the unopened package becomes evidence of the date that the work was created.

After you establish your rights to the work, you must then prove the amount of monetary damages caused by the theft. That requires that you provide evidence of sales revenue that you lost and revenue received by the thief for your work.

The best protection for your work can can be achieved by registering it with the U.S. Copyright Office. You will be required to provide a sample or photograph of your work with your application along with a $20 fee. It may take six months or more before the registration takes effect. The U.S. Copyright Office will then keep the copy of your work in storage for five years.

If legal action is required against a thief of your work, U.S. Copyright Office registration is almost indisputable proof of your rights to the work. Registration also allows you to recover legal costs in addition to lost revenue.

For more information, visit the U.S. Copyright Office Web site at ( Download the publication "Copyright Basics"

Don't let a thief rob you of the rewards and recognition you deserve from your hard work and creativity. You can protect your work by taking the simple steps described above.

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