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Why should I protect my work?
Because you have created something creative, something unique and most importantly, something of value. There are many ways to ensure that your work will be used only as you intend, but there are also different levels of protection under different circumstances and in different countries.
In places such as the United Kingdom and Ireland, copyright is automatic. And automatic—in this case and in these locations—means that once a work is put into tangible form, the creator of that work owns the copyright and it is protected by copyright law. That person is not required to register his or her songs with any kind of authority in order for them to be protected. While not the letter of the law in every country, this language (as advised by the UK Intellectual Property Office) suggests the following:
“To help protect your copyright work, it is advisable to mark it with the © symbol, the name of the copyright owner and the year in which the work was created. Although this is not essential, it will let others know when the term of protection started and it should then be possible to calculate whether it has ended or not. It will also indicate who the owner was at that time in case it is then necessary to approach them should you need to ask permission to use the work.”
Their FAQs page states:
“Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.”
While the United States Copyright Office makes clear that creators of works not required to register with their office for copyright protection, they do clarify its purpose: “Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work.”
And further, the Web site goes into detail as to why registration is recommended since (like the UK language above) copyright is automatic in the U.S.
“Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.”
In summary, there is a lot to think about and a lot to understand.If you are an artist or songwriter with questions, a good copyright attorney will prove to be a valuable resource and a wise investment in protecting what you have worked so hard to create.
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