What does copyright mean?
Copyright registration helps an author prove he is the original author of a work.
For those who don't care about protecting their work this article is not for you, but for those who are concerned about protecting their work this article may be for you.
First, I am not an attorney; I am an author. The information in this article is based on my experience and opinions. My opinion and three dollars will get you a cup of coffee most places. That being said, I think many writers will find this information useful.
In actual practice a writer needs to ask himself, "What kind of copyright protection do I want or need?
There are basically three levels of protection:
1) The copyright notice placed in a conspicuous place on your work. Copyright notice consists of the word "Copyright," the year the work originated, and your name, (Copyright 2010 Yourname).
This level of protection carries Evidentiary Weight of Notice. That simply means that the defendant, (or infringer), cannot claim innocent infringement. (U.S. Copyright Code section 401 paragraph (d) Evidentiary Weight of Notice)
In the real world what can this do for you?
I do article marketing for my website. A few short months ago I had an article plagiarized. I had placed copyright notice on my work. The offender eliminated the resource box from my article and claimed the work as his own. This act prevented me from receiving visitors to my website by eliminating my links. The steps to stop the infringement are as follows:
a) I notified the infringer and told him to either replace my resource box, copyright notice, and proper ownership immediately or remove the article from his site. (This works most of the time.)
b) Most website's ISP/ hosts provide strong language against copyright infringement in an acceptable use policy, (AUP). After a reasonable time for response, (two or three days), contact the offender's host and inform them of the copyright infringement. The first question they will ask is, "Did you provide copyright notice on the work?"
If you did not provide notice you may have problems getting the web host to remove the problem.
If you provided notice, there is no defense for the infringer. The web host will more than likely have the infringing party remove the article or give proper credit. They may even kick the plagiarizer off their hosting. They don't want to be involved in problems any more than anyone else. (This works 99% of the time).
2) If you have tangible provable damages that you want to recoup in a court of law then you will need a witness for your copyright notice. In most countries a notarized document provides that witness. (A notary is simply a bonded witness and carries significant weight in a court room.) You may be able to recover provable damages and legal fees.
3) In the United States, the notarized document may get injunctive relief, (stopping the offender), but it will not be sufficient for damages. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is required to get damages and legal fees.
If you are not concerned that's okay, but if you take your work seriously then you might provide some protection for your work.
I am not a lawyer or expert in copyright law. This advice is taken from my personal experience and my personal opinions.