I saw this idea on a website, Women Writers: A Zine, and liked it. I don't know how many of you folks already do this, but I thought I would share it anyway.
The easiest, cheapest way of copyrighting your work, which is, according to the law, copyrighted as soon as you write it-- is to stick your work in an envelope and mail it to yourself. Once the mail comes back, then DO NOT open it, and stick it somewhere safe. The date on the envelope will be legal proof of when your ideas were created by you.
I doubt this would win a lawsuit for you anyway. For instance, I send myself a letter with a blank page. Later, I steam open the envelope (or put it in the freezer and then open it when the glue is frozen), and put in whatever I want. I re-seal the envelope and claim it was always intact.
Gotta register it if you want protection from the courts.
Not that it much matters for our ilk in any case - consider yourself talented indeed if someone tries to steal your work. If you can create great stuff once, you can do it again (and again). Realistically speaking, it ain't gonna happen for most of us!
Yeah, I just give it away.....I'm such a tramp
If my understanding is correct, US copywright laws were rewritten; "copywriting" something is no longer necessary to protect it; anyone's composition or graphic belongs to that person until 50 years after the person's passing; no one may use it or sell it for gain; if you want to underscore that is is not to be used, add "Copyright 1818, Haldorn Flamergushen (or whomever...) All rights reserved". The problem, of course is, if it ever comes to that, is proving it; mailing it to yourself IS the most inexpensive way of doing that. Yes, Hugh, there are ways of surrepetitious ways of defeating the process; registering it provides a higher level of proof.
Presently engaged in developing a positive gear drive that has a capacity for a dozen or more ratios in a smaller lighter package that does not disengage while changing ratios, the po' man's patent is the way it is being protected until patents are obtained. When you begin the patent process, the idea becomes public; theoretically, anyone with deep pockets might be able to design something which circumvents your patent points, patent theirs and beat you to market. And BTW, patent protection belongs to whomever can document his/her origingating the product/process/formula; theoretically, someone can emerge from the woodwork, present whatever proof (maybe the unopened letter) in a court challenge, and the person/company which spent millions developing it, theoretically might end up paying that... woodwork guy/gal/transvestite/transexual/hermaphrodite (gotta extend equal rights these days) royalties.
The above comic strip takes you through the history of copyright (in the US). It is the best resource (I have found, so far) to communicate fair use, copyright as well as providing a historical prespective (so you can gain a understanding of where congress is presumably heading based upon the past few decades).
I will add additional links and resources to this comic strip throughout the archive when we redesign the site.