Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

"Poor-Man's Copyright"


#1

It is true that you can mail yourself a design, song lyrics, or just
about anything you’d like to “copyright” but you have to send it by
Certified Mail so it has that official post office stamp. Then file
it away and never open the envelope until that fateful day when you
have to hand it over to a judge to prove something in court.

Alan Goldin


#2

Hi,

Yes it is true - certainly in the UK any way, as long as it has an
official postmark stamp on it and you can clearly see the date and
leave it un-opened. Then that is lagal proof that you were in
possesion of that design or whatever at that time. It is also
advisable that you send the same copies to a friend or even better
your accountant, lawyer or bank manager, just for extra security. But
make it clear they are not to open it.

Best wishes,
Karen


#3

people, people - don’t complicate life any more than necessary with
posted this or thats or secret envelopes. obviously you each have a
computer or access to one, so just make a scan, a digital picture,
or scan a hard copy of a regular picture, of each piece when it’s
finished and store it in ‘my documents’, ‘filing cabinet’, whatever,
wherever. the image can be ‘modified’ but the original date will
always be there. such a stored picture was what i sent to a major
wholesale catalog supplier when a mexican knockoff of one of my
designs showed up in its catalog as a finding. there was no problem
or harsh words, the knockoff was dropped and they just told
customers it had been discontinued. and people, remember: everything
you do is automatically copyrighted when it becomes ‘real’
(completed). and for goodness & your own sakes, check the orchid
archives for the much rehashed topic of copyrighting and reprint of
the legal opinion.

ive
people, you’ve got a life - use it!


#4

Actually, all you need to do is go the U.S. Library of Congress
Copyright website: http://www.loc.gov/copyright/forms/ download the
form you need FREE OF CHARGE (Form VA), pay the $30.00 fee (be sure
to keep a copy for yourself), and your copyright is done.

You will have to do this anyway before you begin a lawsuit for
copyright infringement, so why not do it at the beginning and do it
the right way?

I get kind of disgusted when I see stuff related to “Poor Man’s
Copyright” when to do it correctly the first time only takes $30.00.
You don’t need an attorney to get a copyright. You DO need one to get
a patent.

Mike Aurelius


#5

Yes , copyright is created at the time the item is created or
becomes real, but, enforcement is possible when you have legal
documentation of your ownership. PC records are easily altered.
Library of Congress records are not. Ed


#6
    It is true that you can mail yourself a design, song lyrics,
or just about anything you'd like to "copyright" but you have to
send it by Certified Mail so it has that official post office
stamp. Then file it away and never open the envelope until that
fateful day when you have to hand it over to a judge to prove
something in court. 

Please cite just one case where this trick has worked, just one. The
odds of your getting an unopened envelope to court are very low in
the US because during the pre-trial discovery process both sides are
required to share ALL their evidence with the other side. The
envelope will have to be opened and I doubt there would be a judge
alive that would not either toss the envelope out or stop the trial
immediately if such a new piece of evidence were presented, at the
very least any opponent would want a third party lab test verifying
(unlikely) that it would not have been possible to fake the sealed
envelope or have tampered with it. Perhaps that all worked in Perry
Mason stories but those were FICTION.

How, when you are put on the stand, will you answer the following
question. “You’re a jeweler, and you have access to the post office
customer counter, would it not be possible for you to get a good
impression of a date stamp from something you mailed yourself then
for you, using your jewelers tools, to have made a fake rubber stamp
and/or cancellation impression such that you could seal anything you
wanted in an envelope for whatever date you wanted?” Would you, if
you were a juror, believe you were so incompetent you couldn’t?

As Ive and others have pointed out copyright rights are automatic
the instant your work is in fixed form (there are different rules for
performance arts but they don’t concern jewelry). But there are also
catches. If you create something and seal it away—sent or
not—and someone else creates exactly the same expression they are
fully entitled to own their own copyright on their creation, you have
no say in the matter whatsoever–they DID NOT COPY your work! Even if
you get your work into mass production you can’t claim a copyright
violation if the other party has reasonable evidence they didn’t copy
your work.

I’m pretty sure British rules are effectively the same but I’ve
posted the UK parties post to the misc.int-property news group to let
the attorneys there have a go at it. I’ll post their replies back
here (didn’t I do that once before? I don’t remember for sure.).

And, unfortunately for those who get tired of this thread being
repeated every 3-6 months it won’t, and can’t go away as long as
there are newbies showing up and “contributing.” First, they likely
aren’t aware, to paraphrase an old saying, “it’s better to be thought
ignorant than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” And second,
as starter of this thread made clear, they’re too lazy to do a
thorough search/perusal of the archives when it only takes seconds to
pop off a (repetitive) question—heck, their time’s more valuable
that any of ours----the thousands of us who read their question and
the ones with the knowledge, patience, and time to respond—for
FREE?

James E. White


#7

Incorrect, my friend. Timestamps on files are easily changed –
takes about five seconds to do it. Do NOT depend on it as proof of
copyright.

Talia


#8
"...  but the original date will always be there" 

Any digital file can be re-dated.

Tony Konrath
Key West Florida 33040


#9
    people, people -      wherever. the image can be 'modified'
but the original date will always be there. 

Ive, This date can be spoofed. More or better corroboration might be a good idea.


#10
This date can be spoofed 

guy, if you can change the ‘created’ date listed on the image in
’properties’ there must be government agencies looking for your
help. the ‘properties’ info can be accessed by right clicking on a
thumbnail or file name; only the ‘summery’ section will accept new
data & any modification made to an image by photo programs registers
its own new date but the ‘created’ date is intact. while there are
people who will have no doubt found a way to change 'properties’
facts, i can’t imagine them hanging around making jewelry instead of
using that ability in transferring huge funds electronically to
their benefit. ive


#11

Wow, James, Either you’re having a bad day, in which case, I hope
you’re feeling better soon, or you wandered into the wrong forum.
Helping each other is what Orchid is all about, right folks? Weren’t
you ever a newbie, or didn’t you ever ask something that had been
covered before? If a post sounds repetitive to you or bores you,
uh, don’t read it! But give everybody a break, we’re all only human.
Speaking for myself, and, I suspect, for most of Orchid, I say to
any and all newbies, the “welcome mat” is always out.

–No�l


#12

It appears that the “created” date on a file is easily changed by
the AttributeMagic file utility. I am sure it is not the only one
which can modify a created date on a file. The date is only code,
and any code written can be changed.

http://www.attributemagic.com/attributemagic_pro.html

So I don’t think the “created” date on a jpeg will stand as ironclad
evidence.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com


#13

Noel, While I agree with you that the reason Orchid exists is to help
people communicate, James does have a valid point. There is a reason
for the Orchid archives and that is so that people can go and see if
a particular subject has been covered. The fact of the matter is
that most people find it easier to skip this particular step and
consequently most of them don’t go into the archives. The problem
this creates, is that for people like James, and myself at times, it
gets extremely repetitive to keep hearing the same topics brought up,
and in this particular case the same misbeing spread
along (i.e. the sending something to yourself in the mail in order to
copyright it) time after time. It is amazing to me that despite the
fact that this myth was knocked down a number of times in the past
people keep bringing it up as fact, and, I might note, many of them
have been reading Orchid for awhile. It is also amazing how similar
the old and new conversations are.

So maybe it would be good for people to occasionally do a little
research and scan the archives. If Hanuman didn’t want you to use
them, he wouldn’t have spent the time putting them up there. It would
also, it seems to me, make Hanuman’s life a lot easier if he didn’t
have quite so many emails to deal with that are all on topics already
covered. And it also seems that since he isn’t being paid for doing
this, we could all have the courtesy to make his life easier by
checking the archives first before starting a thread of another
hundred messages that have already been covered. So you’re right,
the welcome mat is always out for newbies, but everyone should take
the time to do a little research first. There is a vast wealth of
already out there on Orchid and there is no reason not
to use what already exists.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140
617-491-6000
@spirersomes
www.spirersomes.com


#14

The British verdict is in:

Tim Jackson posted to misc.int-property For copyright, however, it
is actually suggested on an official UK government website.  See
http://tinyurl.com/wqap . 
Personally I think that the value of such evidence might perhaps
be overstated, but it certainly can't do any harm. 
The point is that UK copyright is free and automatic anyway, with
no registration requirements.  Nothing you do (or fail to do) can
detract from that, so calling something a "poor man's copyright" is
a bit of a misnomer. 

Read the second paragraph of that linked page until you understand
what it says. It doesn’t prove you OWN a copyright but, if your date
predates another’s claim to copyright infringement by YOU it protects
you, not your work. Also, PLEASE, click all the links on the right of
that page and read those pages too (really now, it shouldn’t be
necessary to tell you to do that if you’re here to learn:-).

And no, Noel, I’m not having a bad day. I’ve been a net contributor
by several miles starting with Compuserve in 1984 and continuing with
a few BBSs since then and on into this "new"fangled thing called the
Internet. Sad to say I haven’t seen the volume of
incompetent-ignoramus or inconsiderate-lazy-loafer posts decrease
EXCEPT where at least a few posters have the Political Incorrectness
to tell the world we recognize the nitwits for what they are.

James E. White
Inventor, Marketer, and Author of "Will It Sell?


#15

The British verdict continued…

Chris Torrero posted this to misc.int-property

      Tangential to this, and the word "design" in James's
      original post makes me think that this may have been in the
      mind of the original poster, what is the best way to protect
      one's design right? Unlike written works, it is fairly
      unusual for three dimensional objects to carry the name of
      the designer. Presumably you could post photographs (or a
      small article) to yourself. Or are there other ways? 
      For details on design right, an automatic right giving
      limited rights in respect of the shape or configuration of
      three dimensional articles, see 
      http://www.patent.gov.uk/design/indetail/designright.htm 
      The UK also has registered designs, akin to the US design
      patent. 

(James White speaking again) UK “design rights” are a new one to me
and appear to be mainly applicable to the UK though other EU folks
can get them and enforce them–but only in the UK. Most of the world
population, including those in the USA, is not eligible for the
rights.

Some further thoughts from Tim Jackson based on questions about the
above:

           Does design right automatically arise under Copyright
          Law or under Patent Law ? 
      Neither.  It is separate from both of them.  (Though in the
      UK it is governed by an umbrella law, the Copyright, Designs
      and Patents Act 1988.) 
      One difference between the unregistered design right and a
      registered design is that a registered design lasts for a
      longer lifetime (if you keep paying the renewal fees). 
          Does it mean, that the suggested by you, automatically
          arisen design right is not subject to international
          protection ? 
      When it was first introduced in the UK by the 1988 Act,
      there was nothing similar in any other country.  Thus, the
      link given by Chris says "design right is effective only in
      the United Kingdom". 
      Recently, though, the European Union has enacted a somewhat
      similar unregistered design right (but with an even shorter
      lifetime). Eventually, after Poland joins the EU, I believe
      you will have it too. 
      But there's nothing similar in most other countries, such as
      the USA. And the citizens of most other countries do not
      qualify for UK design rights. 
                         doesn't provide an exclusive right to
          make ....... ? 
      So if someone else makes the same design independently from
      you, without copying, then a registered design would still
      protect you but the unregistered design right doesn't. 

Bottom line is the UK “design right” is somewhat akin to copyright
but lasts at most for 10 years of production with only 5 years being
exclusive. The next question the UK folks will need to ask is how
that relates to jewelry and whether artistic copyright relates
better. Does copyright trump design right? I don’t know but I’d guess
it does–hopefully some UK citizen can study the matter and post the
answer for the benefit of those who need to know. I’ll pose the
question on misc.int-property but there may be no one there with an
interest in jewelry.

James E. White


#16

Hi, in Australia, if you make a one off piece of jewellery, it is
considered along with " art" to be automatically copyright to the
artist at the moment ( or thereabouts ) of creation, and nothing
more needs to be done in regards to this. If you plan producing more
than one hundred of your piece, you then have to register the design
BEFORE you start selling it with IP Australia, if you want it
protected legally that is, at a cost of $90. IP then process your
application to register this design, but when application is
accepted ( if it is) the design registration is dated from your
original application date. The registration also comes up for
renewal after a period of time, at a further fee. I’ve been going
through this process for a while now, and I’m still a little hazy on
what happens if you make say… 30 of a piece, but I think if you
argue artistic input on each piece, then it is part of the automatic
copyright for artists thing. Arts Law were the people who told me
about this, but it was a couple of years ago, and the whole issue of
protecting one’s work can be a little complicated. Christine in Sth
Australia

another thought- I understand that this “protection” is only valid
in Australia and countries which have copyright agreements with us


#17

Hi, Sorry to burst your bubble but that is not true. It would not
hold up in a court of law. Many people will print “All Rigths
Resevered” until they receive their copyright number. If you need
to copyright your materials, designs, or written statements go to:
http://www.copyright.gov/ This site will have applications you can
download in .pdf format. You need to have Adobe software .pdf 6.0 or
higher. If you don’t have it, the copyright office site should have
it so you will be able to download it. Once you have a .pdf software
you can print out the applications or other pages this department
offer. This is taken from the Visual Art section of the Copyright
department. Copies from the government are not considered copyright
infringements to use the US Government materials. Here is what they
consider Visual Art: Visual Arts Works

For copyright purposes, visual arts are original pictorial, graphic,
and sculptural works, which include two-dimensional and
three-dimensional works of fine, graphic, and applied art.

Examples of visual arts works:

  • Advertisements, commercial prints, labels

  • Artificial flowers and plants

  • Artwork applied to clothing or to other useful articles

  • Bumper stickers, decals, stickers

  • Cartographic works, such as maps, globes, relief models

  • Cartoons, comic strips

  • Collages

  • Dolls, toys

  • Drawings, paintings, murals

  • Enamel works

  • Fabric, floor, and wallcovering designs

  • Games, puzzles

  • Greeting cards, postcards, stationery

  • Holograms, computer and laser artwork

  • Jewelry designs

  • Models

  • Mosaics

  • Needlework and craft kits

  • Original prints, such as engravings, etchings, serigraphs, silk
    screen prints, woodblock prints

  • Patterns for sewing, knitting, crochet, needlework

  • Photographs, photomontages

  • Posters

  • Record jacket artwork or photography

  • Relief and intaglio prints

  • Reproductions, such as lithographs, collotypes

  • Sculpture, such as carvings, ceramics, figurines, maquettes, molds,
    relief sculptures

  • Stained glass designs

  • Stencils, cut-outs

  • Technical drawings, architectural drawings or plans, blueprints,
    diagrams, mechanical drawings

  • Weaving designs, lace designs, tapestries

    U.S. Copyright Office
    101 Independence Ave. S.E.
    Washington, D.C. 20559-6000
    (202) 707-3000

According to the Copyright department, a person needs to fill out
their application, submit it with a $30.00 fee, submit it according
to their specifications/category for copyrighted materials, and once
they receive it, it will be copyrighted. It will take between 4-6
months to receive your copyright number for the application you
submitted. If a person has many items to copyright, look to see if
there is a manual or book style that will allow even works of art,
sculpture, jewelry, other 3D art forms, so you can have it for one
copyright license for the same fee of $30.00 I think that if you have
a great design, then it is important to copyright it, the problem is
who will be the watcher to oversee that no person or entity is
pirating your images? Good Luck. Waynette HQCE


#18
    Hi, Sorry to burst your bubble but that is not true.  It would
not hold up in a court of law. Many people will print "All Rigths
Resevered" until they receive their copyright number. 

Not sure whose bubble you’re trying to burst but the fact of the
matter is that copyright, copyright ownership, and registration are
three different critters. Copyright (rights) in a work occurs the
instant the work is in a fixed form. You OWN the copyright in your
work the instant you’ve created it in a fixed form UNLESS it’s a work
made for hire (in which case the employer owns it) or you’ve
contractually obligated it to someone else in advance of creation (in
which case they own it). You can even LEGALLY mark a copyright NOTICE
on the work without asking anyone’s permission----in fact it is a
very good idea to. You can also REGISTER your copyright with the
government and that, in the US, entails a form and a $30 fee PLUS,
depending on the work, some deposit requirements. Registration gives
you more rights in court and better infringement recovery
opportunities but is NOT required for a copyright to be valid.

The phrase “All Rights Reserved” is NO LONGER NEEDED though many
still use it. It used to be a requirement for securing some copyright
rights OUTSIDE the US under international copyright agreements. The
phrase is NOT a “pre-copyright number” way of reserving rights.

This is indeed all explained at:

    http://www.copyright.gov/ department.  Copies from the
government are not considered copyright 

Basically government created works have no copyright rights by law
so anyone can freely copy them. That, however, does NOT mean that if
something is available through the government that it never has any
copyright rights. Common sense and an examination of the work will
usually tell you which is which. (If there is no copyright notice
assume government provided material can be freely copied. If there is
a notice it gets more complicated and does not always preclude you
copying something.)

      Here is what they consider Visual Art: Visual Arts Works 

Yes, and some categories from that list, depending on the nature
(“fine, graphic, and applied art,” emphasis added vs “textual”)
of the item, may also be more appropriately registered using form TX
(or perhaps others) but for jewelry per se this not likely.

    According to the Copyright department,  a person needs to fill
out their application, submit it with a $30.00 fee, submit it
according to their specifications/category for copyrighted
materials, and once they receive it, it will be copyrighted. 

The above, particularly the last line, is just plain hogwash. Read
the web site! The copyright, which ALREADY EXISTS, will simply be
REGISTERED!

If a person has many items to copyright, look to see if there is a
manual or book style that will allow even works of art, sculpture,
jewelry, other 3D art forms, so you can have it for one copyright
license for the same fee of $30.00 

KNOW THE RULES and what you are doing. There are very specific laws
and rules regarding copyright registrations for “collections” and
"collection" registration may give you NO RIGHTS regarding individual
items within the collection. The basic rule is that you should
register each work that is an independent work, and for which you
want the benefits of registration, separately. Hoping to sneak
through many things on one fee may certainly get you a registration
and may even make your cease and desist letters pretty scary to
infringers but if it’s not what you need to win a court battle----and
you get into one----you’re sunk!

I think that if you have a great design, then it is important to
copyright it, 

The “copyright” is AUTOMATIC. Obviously this person has confused
REGISTRATION with copyright.

the problem is who will be the watcher to oversee that no person or
entity is pirating your images? 

I’ll second that. Owning a copyright only gives you certain rights
and it is entirely your responsibility to enforce those rights at
your own trouble and expense.

People, PLEASE, if you don’t KNOW you understand the material at the
copyright site DO NOT post anything trying to explain it to others!
(And if you THINK you know it bounce it past someone knowledgeable
BEFORE you post it. The Copyright Law, like any law, MUST be
understood in its entirety first, one cannot pick and choose
the phrases they want and disregard the rest.)

As usual, IANAL but I’ve studied this stuff for 10+ years.

James E. White
Inventor, Marketer, and Author of “Will It Sell?
How to Determine If Your Invention Is Profitably Marketable
(Before Wasting Money on a Patent)” www.willitsell.com
Also: www.booksforinventors.com and www.idearights.com