So today was a really cool day. I made a trip to my PO box, expecting the regular bills and various sales trash that still plague the earth – and was very pleasantly surprised to find 2 letters from the Library of Congress. You see, almost 8 months ago, I started submitting my jewelry tutorials to the US Copyright Office for registration. At first, I checked my PO at least once a week, sometimes 2 or 3 times, looking for these prized letters. Silly me thought it would only be a matter of a couple weeks, and all my registrations would be sent. Nope, sorry – it’s not quite that easy. Well the registration part is – it’s the “wait for them to be researched, registered and returned” that’s the hard part, especially when patience isn’t your strong-suit.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking – “My tutorials are copyrighted as soon as I create them”, and/or “I put a notice at the end, that says they are my copyrighted works, so I don’t have to register”. Well you’re sort of right. Yes, you have a copyright on your work, as soon as it’s created and/or published; yes your notice at the end, does emphasize that fact a bit more. But, NO, you are not fully protected. It’s still incredibly easy for some nit to come along, and try and say, “no, that’s my work”, and without a Certificate of Registration, you’re a bit hard-pressed to defend against it. Now that same nit can still whine after you get your certificate, but then it is the nit who will be hard-pressed to get anywhere. The other major point, is if you need to file suit against someone for violating your rights, you HAVE TO have that registration before you can take them to court.
No, I’m not planning on taking anyone to court, but I, like every other artist out there, needed to protect myself against the whining nits. The copyright Office takes the time they do, because they do a thorough and exhaustive search, to see if your submission is already out there, and belonging to anyone else. When they send you your certificate, they don’t do it lightly. It’s basically the US Copyright Office standing on your side, saying, “Absolutely, Yes that’s your work”! One extra perk – Your work is also submitted to the Library of Congress as a permanent record! How cool is that?
Now you’d like a little help doing the same for your own tutorials? Well, I’m not an expert, but after 14 submissions, I’m on my way – so here’s some pointers and info to help you through it.
First you need to visit http://www.copyright.gov/ . There are tons of links and tutorials to answer just about any question you could ever have on copyrights. Then click on the eCO login
, read the privacy and security notice, then click on the link for new users towards the lower left side of the page under the login space. Be as complete as possible when you fill in your personal information. it will come in very handy later when you actually start a submission (registering a claim). The submission process has a great feature called “add me” wherever applicable, that inputs all your relevant personal information for you so you are not constantly retyping info.
The biggest hurdle is deciding what type of work you are submitting. For 99% of you, that will be a “Literary Work” in the drop down menu for type. Later in the submission you will have the opportunity to input exactly what all you think is included, ie photos, text, art, instruction, etc. There is a tutorial available at every step of the process if you get hung up. You can save the submission at any point, and come back to it later – very handy. You can work on your submissions as long as you like, there are no time limits set, when you start. It’s only when you send them money, and submit the tutorial does any of it become carved in stone, so take all the time you need.
I found it very handy to fill in every submission, all the way to the payment stage, and then “save for later”. Then whenever I was ready to pay for one, I just clicked on “working cases” in my profile, did one last quick check, and clicked “add to cart”. It’s only $35.00 per submission, and you can upload a pdf (make sure it is secured), directly after payment. You can send the tutorial by snail mail, but you can’t do both. If you send your pdf file, make sure you disable your pop-up blocker for this site first.
It doesn’t take long at all to get the hang of it. You have “working cases” – claims that are started but not paid for; “open cases” – claims that are paid for and submitted, but haven’t been registered by the CO yet; and “closed cases”. Those that have been registered and you have been sent certificates for. You can review any “case” at any time from your personal page after login, and your closed cases from the “my applications” link, also on your personal page.
I hope you take the time to at visit the US copyright Office website. The information is priceless. Other valuable information on the subject can also be found at http://www.sarahfeingold.com/
Comments and questions are always welcome – I’m not a lawyer, but I’ll try to answer you as best I can. If you get really hung-up, and you truly think you need a lawyer, make sure they are fluent in “Copyright Law”, not just patents, and trademarks – different animals all together.
Thanks for listening….