Even though officially registering a creative work under a copyright in the U.S. Copyright Office is no longer required for works published after March 1, 1989, having the added protections of having one can save you from dealing with “innocent infringers” or entities who have committed copyright infringement under the guise of them “not having known” that your work was copyrighted against use without your permission. By having the symbol, a circled C, ©, with the name of the copyright owner and the date published, you are crafting a shield around your creative work.
It’s not a requirement to have a copyright, but it is a boon to have. Imagine you’ve made an amazing masterpiece that’s able to awe anyone who lays eyes on it. You are so proud of your creation that you immediately publish it on your social media pages to show the world. However, you didn’t explicitly state that the work was All Rights Reserved and that no one was allowed to use it without your permission. A year passes and you haven’t been able to create something nearly as fascinating as your proudest piece. You’re scrolling through social media to get ideas, and your see someone with a T-Shirt for sale. It’s a great T-Shirt of a beautiful art piece, but that art piece was yours and you didn’t make it into a T-Shirt or give anyone permission to use it. How would you feel, then, knowing that someone has stollen your work because you didn’t fully claim it as yours?
The thing about copyrights is that they only protect the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. The way you expressed your idea, and the way you showed it to the world is yours and only yours the moment you create it and copyright it, but the idea itself is for anyone to use.
If you don’t show that your creation is not to be used without your permission, you are tacitly allowing others to use it as if it were Public Domain.
There are many unfortunate situations where artists, authors, singers, and performers have had to file lawsuits because others had stolen their content. However, what sets many of them apart from each other is that, when the copyright is established, the law is able to support you first and foremost as the undisputed owner of your original work. With a copyright established, you are legally the owner of your work, and are immediately entitled to the right to copy, modify, and distribute that work. And unless your copyright allows for others to use your work with your permission, or if it is in the Public Domain, then no one is entitled to use your work for their own without your permission.
No matter what type of media you’ve used to make your work, and no matter when, where, or why you made it, just as long as it was a new expression of an idea, and that you’ve proudly claimed it as yours, the copyright laws will protect your works from copyright infringers. You do not need to register with the U.S. Copyright Office to use the circled C, ©. By simply having it, you’ve already made a shield for your work that is perfectly viable to use in defense of your ownership and rights as a creator. But by denying yourself the use of a copyright, whatever the reason you may have, you are still leaving yourself vulnerable to theft and the possible inability to ask for compensation in a court of law against those who have stolen from you.
By: Valeria Linares
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