On Writing : About copyright by Annaluisa de Socchieri

Annaluisa de Socchieri

About copyright

Hi there. I have some doubts about copyrights, here is my concern: when I register my work to the WGW or the US copyright office, the procedure takes about a few months to be completed (this is the period of time needed to receive the registration certificate, as reported in the website). My question is this: can I publish my work meanwhile? Is my work protected from the very beginning of registration or do I have to wait until the certificate is in my hands? Do you have experiences with this "issue"?

Mike Romoth

Although I am no expert, my understanding is that your work is protected as soon as they receive the application. Most people say that WGA registration is "nice" but does not offer the protections of a real copyright. A real copyright is the only way to register the time and date of your original work in a manner that will stand up in court. But once you have sent them the work, along with the necessary fees and forms, you are protected. It can take up to six months to get that certificate back, and most excited writers want to get their work out there way before such a long wait.

Annaluisa de Socchieri

Thank you so much Mike. I also thought the same, because it seems strange to me that someone have to wait months before publishing with confidence. I just wanted to be 100% sure of this; I have also sent a message to the Office about it, when I will get a reply I will update my message.

Annaluisa de Socchieri

Thank you Jeff for the info. I'm less worried now about this issue. Another doubt is in my mind. I intend to publish my novel firstly in the UK. Can I still copyright my work through the US copyright service? Is there any other not American author who has faced these doubts?

Richard Fricker

Firstly, I am not a lawyer, and the following is my understanding and my practice, not legal advice. From Copyright Basics: "Copyright protection exists from the moment a work is created in a fixed, tangible form of expression. The copyright immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author, or those deriving their rights through the author, can rightfully claim copyright. In the case of works made for hire, the employer—not the writer—is considered the author." This means that under law you do not need to register an original work to have it "copyrighted". The original author owns it as soon as it is put into material form, such as being written down or recorded in some way (filmed or recorded on an audio file or tape). It's good to have a copy of your work registered, but that in itself is a public record only for legal argument to prove a timeline. Even if you register it you still do not own the copyright if someone can prove it existed before your copy did. Use the copyright symbol © or (C) on your documents. You do not need to register a document to use the symbol but it is useful to stop any argument of "innocent infringement". After the symbol have the year and the author's name, so in my case it would be © 2015 Richard Fricker

Annaluisa de Socchieri

Thanks Jeff and Richard for your precious help.

Dane Johnson

Yes, except in a work made for hire situation a creator owns the copyright in his or her work as soon as that work is fixed in a tangible medium. But registration is necessary to enforce a copyright claim. It creates a presumption that copyright in the work is valid and allows for statutory damages and attorney's fees. It's an inexpensive step that should always be taken to protect valuable legal rights.

Richard Fricker

True, in a work for hire, the creator is the company or the entity commissioning the work.

Dane Johnson

That's right, Richard. As a side note, remember that unless there is a signed written agreement, the work is not for hire. The creator starts out with all the rights even if the work is a contribution to a motion picture (one of the nine work-for-hire categories).

Annaluisa de Socchieri

I am sorry for my late reply. I received some answers to my doubts from WGAW. I think the same reasoning applies to other copyright services. "We recommend authors document their authorship in some fashion prior to releasing work to outside or third parties.  Material that is submitted for WGAW registration online is processed and effective immediately. The registration number is provided once the online transaction is complete; there is no delay". I hope these words help you, as much as they helped me. :)

Richard Fricker

Annaluisa, registration with the WGA is not copyright protection, merely evidence of the existence of the work. If there is a lawsuit in the USA, it is important the work was registered at the US Copyright office first. Dane noted above attorney fees and statutory damages for example. This article is informative: https://www.writersstore.com/wgaw-registration-vs-copyright-registration/

Annaluisa de Socchieri

Thank you, Richard, for the reply and the article. I will register with US copyright office, I think it's the best choice; but I think the same reasoning can be applied to it, too. I mean: the registration online is processed and effective immediately...which means that there's no need to have the paper certificate. But anyway, I've just sent them a message about this question. As soon as I get reply, I'll write it here.

Richard Fricker

Annaluisa, yes, neither registration invokes "ownership", and you are correct in that registration with one or the other is strong evidence for proof of ownership. The US Copyright office has benefits of being able to claim fees and damages if there were ever a lawsuit in the USA (which hopefully will not happen).

Annaluisa de Socchieri

Richard. I read the very helpful article, which points out the differences of the two. Thank you so much :)

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