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How Do You Copywrite a Publication?

Written work is automatically copyrighted when created. You can thus use the (C) symbol right away. Even if you don't put that little (C) on your work, you automatically own the copyright the instant your work of expression becomes fixed in a tangible medium.

In cyberspace and for the most part, once an expression is entered into a computer in a form that can be read on screen, it is considered fixed in a tangible medium, even if it is never printed out or saved to a disk.

While a copyright notice -- that little (C) followed by the year and the author's name -- is not required, it is recommended in order to remind people that the author claims a copyright, which helps to deter would-be plagiarists. When a (C) symbol is seen, people are often psychologically compelled not to copy.

There is a new statute in the United States, however, that affects new mediums -- similar ones in Canada and the UK have also been recently implemented. It's called the "Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998," signed by the President on October 28, 1998, and it addresses a number of copyright issues created by the increasing use of the Internet for commerce in materials protected by copyright (such as software, Web sites, and e-mail).

In fact, the UK was the leader in this regard with the "Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act of 1988," in which section 17 refers to electronic copyright specifically. But whether new laws are implemented or not, the Internet is still subject to the century-old "Berne Convention," which states that most copyright laws (be it old or new) are enforceable all over the world.

Your best bet, of course, is to register your creative work. If someone ever plagiarizes you, it is not only easy for you to prove that this work is your own but it also gives you legal wherewithal to sue for damages and losses.

You can register your copyright by filing a simple form and depositing one or two samples of the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. To obtain forms, instructions, or the location of the Copyright Office in your state, you can call the U.S. Copyright Office by telephone at (202) 707-9100, or visit them online at

In Canada, you can register with the Canadian Copyright Office, Copyright and Industrial Design Branch, Place du Portage, Tower 1, 50 Victoria Street, 5th floor, Hull, Quebec, K1A OC9. You can also visit

In the UK, it's the Registry of Copyright, the Registrar, Stationers' Hall, Ave Maria Lane, London, EC4M 7DD. Their phone number is 0171-248-2934 (more information can be found at

Currently, in the US registration costs $20 per work. If you're registering several works that are part of one series, you may be able to save money by registering the works together (called "group registration"), such as an e-zine or Web site in which content continually changes.

By the way, I'm not a lawyer so please do not consider this as legal advice. However, most of the information I gave you (and more) can be found at:

Good luck!

Copyright © 2002 Michel Fortin - All rights reserved
Michel Fortin is a copywriter, author and consultant dedicated to turning businesses into powerful magnets. His specialty are direct response, long copy, email and web sales letters. Get a free copy of his ebook, "The Ten Commandments of Power Positioning," and subscribe to his free monthly email newsletter, "The Profit Pill," by visiting!

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