Monday, March 19, 2012

Copyrighting Your Blog Pt.2

So, you want to know how to seriously copyright your blog, eh?

Well, it'll cost ya. As you may expect, the Real thing and the Free thing are not the Same thing. is your protection from having your work stolen in the same way crime laws protect your house from getting robbed:
Mostly in theory
Having an official copyright registered with the Copyright Office is like taking the time to install locks on your doors and windows, setting up an alarm system, and perhaps buying a good insurance policy. When life gives you something to chew on, you'll have teeth when you need them.

So how much will it hurt, you ask? The application fee is $35. But, how much you'll actually end up needing to spend depends on how you go about this.

First off, how do you copyright a blog? It should surprise no one that the laws haven't caught up with the technology yet. When they wrote copyright laws they envisioned books, magazines, theatre plays and songs. A web log? What is that? Not quite a journal, nor a newsletter, nor a magazine... Golly gee, I dunno...

If your blog is like mine, with a new post every day, you don't have a single, static piece of work to submit for copyrighting purposes. Thus, you'd initially rule out filing it under the category 'Literary Work'. My first choice would have been to define it as a 'Serial'.

The Copyright Office defines a serial thus: "Serials are defined as works issued or intended to be issued in successive parts bearing numerical or chronological designations and
intended to be continued indefinitely. The classification “serial” includes periodicals,
newspapers, magazines, bulletins, newsletters, annuals, journals, proceedings
of societies, and other similar works."

Continued indefinitely? Successive parts bearing chronological designations? That's really close, right? It could fit, right? Well, unfortunately, most blogs don't really fit this category quite right, either. We don't publish with as much content nor with such rigid regularity.

So now what? You could register each blog post individually as single literary works, but you'd have to file an application and pay the $35 fee every time. That gets expensive. But if you feel that you only have a few posts that need strong protection and/or you post very infrequently this could be an option for you.

But I'd rather cover my entire blog under an umbrella. I found some nice articles by Sarah Bird over here all about this topic, and really, if you want to, you could go over there and read them both and leave the rest of this post unread.
If you don't want to read that much you can stay here and I'll tell you what I did.

It's easier and cheaper to use the Copyright Office's new electronic system than to send in a paper form ($45), so do that.

Since this is my first time registering it, I put the entire blog under 'Literary Work'. That means everything I've written up til now will be considered a single entity, with a publication date of whenever the latest post was Published. Do you understand how we're looking at this? The entire blog is like a book, and each post is a chapter you've tacked on. We're going to take everything you have written so far and register that as a single Literary Work. I'll get into what we'll do about later posts/"chapters" later on.

By the way, if you still haven't backed up your blog, now is the time to get it done anyway. You'll need the XML file you get out of that for the application. And make sure it's the copy with the last Published post as of the time you are registering. If you fill out your application and put a publication date of, say, [March 18, 2012] but then write a new post tomorrow, and only then remember, 'Oh hey, I need a copy of my blog-book', and export an XML file with a latest post dated March 19, 2012, it's just going to mess up the application. They are going to see that the dates don't match and you might have to start all over, including pay that fee again. On the other hand, it shouldn't be a problem if you post earlier than your 'publication date'. So you can fill out the application today and date it 3/18/2012 but the last post you Published was 3/15/2012, that should be fine.

I'll walk you through the process and what I entered. After registering a new account on their nifty eCO website I started an application to Register a New Claim.

You'll have to go through these steps:

  • Type of Work
Literary Work, or course.

  • Titles
A 1Tofu Life. I only have the one. No volume, no number, no issue date. The type is 'Title of work being registered'. And make sure you spell it right and exactly. (- -__)

  • Publication/Completion
 The answer should be Yes. And then you have to give specifics. The 'Year of Completion' should be obvious: this year. Remember, we're considering what you have so far a complete work. The 'Date of First Publication' might trip you up. "Would this be the date of the first blog post I wrote?" No. Remember, we are looking at the entire blog like a single work. I backed my blog up on the 15th, but I filled out my application on the 16th, so I just put 3/16/2012 on mine.

  • Authors
That's you. I have no Organization Name and I didn't write this blog for any employer so it isn't Work For Hire.
I don't write it anonymously BUT I DO WRITE IT USING A PSEUDONYM. Well, pseudonym makes it sound mysterious like I'm using a pen name or something. Henry is a nickname a.k.a. pseudonym, not my birth-name. As such, for copyright purposes, I have to make a note of that here. Nowhere on my blog is my real name written so if I fill out this application for what looks like someone else's work I'd get in trouble. If you don't use your real name on your blog/ literary work, this is where the link between the two names is drawn.

Next you will check off exactly what you authored in this work. I wrote the text, I edited the material, I posted photos and art. (My own. We'll get into this below.) I compiled material that I didn't create: facts, news, etc. Basically, checked off everything but Computer Program.

  • Claimants
The author of the work is the original copyright claimant. I just clicked [Add Me].

  • Limitation of Claim
This part is important. Unless your blog is entirely, 100% original content you'll need to limit some of your claims. Otherwise you can skip this step altogether! As I've mentioned before, many large publishing firms don't give a crap about this part and just throw blanket copyrights over stuff they put out even if some of it isn't truly their IP. But let's have some integrity here, eh?
I use images in a lot of my posts that I've gathered from the far reaches of the internet. They aren't mine so I check off [Artwork] and [Photographs] under the Material Excluded column. But wait! I've noted materials I've excluded from my claim so now I have to note what I include. Not all the photos and artwork came from someone else. Some of that stuff IS mine, so I check off [Artwork] and [Photographs] under New Materials Included. Actually, everything else is my own stuff so I checked off all except Computer Program since there isn't any of that in this work.

N.B. See that column for Previous Registration? We don't touch that this time but that part will be used when we come back here to copyright the next edition of our blog-book.

  • Rights & Permissions
Nothing here.

  • Correspondent
Unless you have someone else representing you, like a copyright attorney, this should just be your own contact info here.
  • Mail Certificate
Your information again. The Organization box has an asterisk but if you're registering as an individual you don't need anything in there.
  • Special Handling
Nothing to do here, for me anyway.
  • Certification
Certify that this is, in fact, your own work.
  • Review Submission
And make sure you spelled your name correctly and everything.

Add this to your cart. Convert your XML file into a .docx file or one of the other accepted file types and upload it as your work's Deposit with the Copyright Office. Finally, you pay the $35 fee, wait a few months and if everything goes properly you should get a certificate from the Copyright Office for your newly copyrighted work.

What about all the posts you've written in the intervening months? Those aren't protected, right?

We'll get into that next.