Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Copyrighting Your Blog Pt.3

So then, it's been months (ain't time travel fun?) and you have a new shiny certificate of copyright on your work in your hands, yes? But it's been months! (The Copyright Office currently estimates a period of 3 months to process an electronic application. Compare that to the 10 month wait for paper. Use electronic, everyone.) What about all those posts you've written in the intervening time? Well, those still have that automatic protection we talked about but since they aren't part of the "work" you copyrighted earlier they are not protected by the same registration. Of course, they are technically protected under copyright law, I say again.

If you aren't feeling like you wasted $35 at this point and still want to keep copyrighting your work, then good! BUT it gets tricky here. I registered my blog in its [June 2011-March 16, 2012] form. Now I've written another 3 months of hypothetical posts, yes? Should I register the whole thing again as a Literary Work? In a word: No. You can't register a copyright on something twice. Think about it, that just doesn't make any sense. But what to do about the 3 months worth of new material? Register those by themselves as another Literary Work? Well... no, the title of the blog on which I wrote these is still the same, so that won't work either.

What then? What I'll do is register the whole blog as a Derivative Work of your first registration. That is to say, I register a copyright on the new material as an update of the old material. It's like "A 1Tofu Life, 2nd edition" like you see on textbooks. Actually, it's exactly like that... (- -___)

This is where you use the middle column on the Limitation of Claim step of the application. But we'll get to that.

First, you'll enter the type of work and the title just like last time. No changes there.

When you get to the Publication/Completion step you make the 'Year of Completion' current and the 'Date of First Publication' the date of the latest post. Do not get confused and make the 'Date of First Publication' the same as the date of your previous registration. This isn't the same thing. This new and improved blog of yours, with 3 months of new material, is going to be your new Literary Work registered with the Copyright Office and, as such, this will technically be its first Publication as a complete work, understand?

Authors and Claimants should be unchanged.

Now you get to Limitation of Claim, again. This time you DO use the Previous Registration column. You should only have the one. After you've been doing these 'updates' periodically for a while you'll have a longer history and you'll put the most recent two registrations here. But for now, you only have one previous reg. number.

Everything else is pretty straightforward.

The 3 month processing period is coincidentally the ideal interval between which you should register your Derivative Works, by the way. Why? Because three months is the grace period for registering your work to have the legal perks in case you take someone to court over infringement. Registering your work any later than 3 months after actual publication and you won't get the perks unless the infringement happens after the registration.

Oh, I forgot to tell you what those perks are! Well, basically, if your registered copyright is infringed then the infringing party has to pay for your lawyer fees and statutory damages if they are found in the wrong. Nifty, ain't it? Otherwise, if you take someone to court on "copyright on principle" grounds, i.e. without registering with the Office, you'll have to pay for the attorney fees yourself. This can get costly. You can win and get paid your damages, sure, but it's entirely too likely you'll win and still end up in the hole with nothing more than a slip of paper saying, "You were right." See how having a registered copyright is much more useful?

If, during the 3 month period between registrations, your material gets stolen in the first month, you can register a copyright on the three months' material and then take the punks to court with the perks of registered copyright. If you let your schedule lapse and register the derivative work on the fourth month, your legal power-ups won't reach the month during which they committed the crime. Make no mistake, you can still do everything in your power to fight back, but you won't have the perks. Get it?

And there you go. For bloggers in the U.S. anyway, this is what you can do to armor your precious blog intellectual property. Hope it helps.