© questions? … © answers!


Can’t I just mail it to myself?

Can’t I use the “poor man’s copyright” and just mail it to myself?

Obtaining copyright protection by mailing your work to yourself and not opening the envelope is an urban myth. Although you may have a postmark showing the date of mailing, it is not a substitute for registration. It’s a waste of time and money because it has no legal benefits for infringement lawsuits. It will still be necessary to file for registration of your claim in the Copyright Office before a lawsuit. The postmarked envelope is not a public record or solid proof in court.
Why do you think they call it the “poor man’s copyright”? - - MJD

A property in rights

A property in rights

James Madison is considered one of the greatest political thinkers of his time and the father of US Copyright. He articulated a simple, yet novel idea – first published in The National Gazette in 1792, which is carved on the walls of the Copyright Office.
 “As a man is said to have a right to his property; he may be equally said to have a property in his rights”
What does this mean?  
Just as a person has the right to buy and sell tangible property, will it to his heirs, earn a living from it, and even let it fall into decay, he has the same rights for intangible property, such as copyright.    - - MJD

Why register my copyright?

Why should I register my copyright if protection is automatic?

There are several excellent reasons to register your claim to copyright.

  • Registrations are public records identifying the Copyright Claimant;
  • Registration is necessary before an infringement suit can be filed in court;
  • Registration is evidence in court of your claim to ownership;
  • If registration is made within three (3) months after publication or before an infringement, you may ask for additional damages and attorney’s fees;
  • Registration is necessary to obtain certain compulsory royalties; and
  • Registration protects against the importation of infringing copies of your work.

The nature of man is to express

The urge to create art & literature as an expression of the self is one of the hallmarks of Homo Sapiens.
About 35,000 years ago, the Aurignacians of southern Germany created ivory statuettes with both naturalistic & stylized features. 27,000 years ago, in the Cosquer caves, we find the painted outline of a man’s hand next to a cave painting. This is the first claim of Authorship.
Thirty thousand years later, nothing has changed about man’s nature. We still must express ourselves through our creations, and claim credit for them.
My only question is “How much mammoth meat did the artist charge for his painting?” - MJD

Teaching the TEACH Act

One thing I’ve learned from the MERLOT conference is that there is widespread confusion about what is and what is not “fair use”. It’s understandable. Some professors are overly cautious, fearful of infringing; and others are too cavalier. Most aren’t aware of the balance between exclusive rights and the free expression of ideas that is the philosophical foundation of copyright law. John & I hope to bridge the gap & give simple, practical answers to their copyright questions. We’re working on a glossary & some FAQ’s about copyright in general. We’ll then move on to more of the legal subtleties of Fair Use (17 USC §107 et. seq.) and the strictures of the TEACH Act (17 USC §110). Since the MERLOT conference two weeks ago, every educator with whom we’ve spoken has been enthusiastic about our project. Please let us know your thoughts. MJD