Why I Started Copy Rite Now! For many years, I have been asked by students and other artists how to protect their designs and art work, and if I copyright my jewelry designs and other art work. My answer was "yes" sometimes, and "no" sometimes. I always said that spending $30.00 for a copy right on most jewelry designs was a waste of money. The only time that I get a copyright is when I come up with a design that I am going to sell to a larger company. This is not to protect me from someone copying the design, it is to protect me from someone else claiming that I copied theirs! If some copies my design, something that is making me an income, I would write them and ask them to stop. However, I certainly would not take them to court, it would never be worth it for 99% of my artwork.
I still questioned whether I was wasting my money. But it was only $30.00, so I did it anyway.
I decided to talk with a Copyright, Trademark Attorney. I paid him for an hour of questions, answers and his feed back on my thinking concerning copyrights on jewelry and art objects. I asked why I should or should not spend the money for a copyright with the government.
Below are some of the answers and some of my feelings on getting a copyright.
These answers are taken from my notes and are as much my thoughts on the matter as direct answers from the attorney, who, of course, ask me not to quote him or use his name.
Question: It is my understanding that the second a person gets finished writing a book, art piece, jewelry, web site, or really anything of a creative nature, that it is automatically copyrighted at that moment?
Answer: This is true, but it may not be as simple as that if you have to defend your inherent copyright.
Question: Then, why do we need copyright attorneys?
Answer: Well, I handle disputes between people who have a copyright and someone that may be infringing on their copyright.
Question: Would I really need an attorney to get a copyright through our government?
Answer: No, not usually, it is a simple form and can be done on the internet.
Question: I have heard of several ways of copyrighting something without paying the $30.00 and actually getting a copyright from the government. I think some of them to be just plain silly, and if it ever had to go to court would not stand up. One such way that I always hear of, is to seal it up in an envelope and mail it to yourself. This way you have a date on the envelope. But, could a good attorney just make fun of this in court. I am not an attorney, but I think I could convince a jury or judge, that an envelope could easily be tampered with, or mailed with nothing inside and sealed years later. So I think this is really silly. To add to that, it could only be used once. Just plain silly, right?
Answer: Yes, silly.
Question: It is just as silly to give it to a friend or relative, right. They have an interest and relationship with the plaintiff, so who is going to believe them.
Answer: Not really, a good way to protect a copyright. You could pay an attorney to file them for you.
Question: I have heard that if it is published on the web, it is copyrighted and some how I can prove the date that I placed it on the web.
Answer: Yes it is copyrighted, but again if it goes to court, there may be some problems with technical questions and could the date be manipulated especially by the person that owns the web site.
Question: This is what I heard over the radio on a "Consumer Advocate" talk show from an attorney that was a guest on the show: (I, of course, am paraphrasing). "In the world today everything that a person creates is automatically copyrighted. The real problem comes when it is necessary to prove that your were the first person to come up with the copyrighted material. In other words, the date of the copyright, because this really is your only proof that you thought of it first." So it is the date that is the real important part of a copyright?
Answer: Yes, if it is the exact same design or copyrighted material.
Question: Is it true that if I sculpt something, that another artist can copy it, change like 10% and call it theirs and copyright it?
Answer: Yes and no, but there is no exact percentage. If you can prove that they used your design and only slightly changed it you would win. All you would have to prove is that they, the copier, based their design, and/or that a "good percentage" of their work was done by you. Someone can not take your original work and simply just change some of it. It would violate your copyright.
Question: So once again, it really boils down to what happens in a court room as to who wins.
Answer? Well, not necessarily, most cases are settled out of court.
Question: The attorney on the radio said that the main difference between an "inherent copyright" and one that you get when you fill out the form and pay the $30.00 was subtle, but important. If you could prove that you originated the piece in question and you could prove that you were the first to create it, you could sue the other person and if you win, they would have to stop making the piece. But, if you have a copyright you can sue them for damages. In other words if they made money, and it cost you money, you could sue them for this lost profit. Is that true?
Answer: Not really it does make it easier for you to collect lost profit, and the person could get fined, and the fines could be awarded to you, so it makes someone think more before copying your work.
Question: What I have really learned about copyrights today is that it really makes very little difference whether I get one through the copyright office, or just protect myself by having proof of when I created my piece. The reality of a copyright is that if you have to sue someone, you will lose. You might win the lawsuit, but rarely will you win any money. The attorneys will make their fees, and I believe they should, but the person involved will both lose, time, money and one will lose the case. One will have to stop making the item. Is that pretty much it in a nut shell?
Answer: Yes, that is fairly accurate.
Question: Considering that, do you recommend that I get a copyright on all my designs through the copyright office, or should I devise my own way of making sure I could prove when I created the piece.
Answer: If I get involved, I would rather have a copyright obtained through the copyright office to use as a tool in a court room.
Question: It sounds as though I would never want a conflict over a design to reach the court room, and then again, why should I spend the money?
Answer: You most likely should not.
Question: To sum this up, these are the steps that I think an artist should take to protect their designs.
1. Protect the design and the date that I created it. My method is that I photograph it, have the photograph notarized and then file it away in a safe place.
2. Then if someone uses my design I would take the following steps.
1. Contact the person or business with a letter and a copy of my notarized photograph, and ask them to quit using my design or idea.
If they stop, then it will be finished. If they do not, it means that they still think the design is theirs, or they are just going to steal my design.
2. If they do not cease their activity, come to you, or another attorney, and ask them to write them a letter stating the same thing. I am doing this in the hopes that an attorney's weight behind the letter, and the threat of a lawsuit, will do the trick.
3. Then I just pay you to write the letter and hope for the best.
Answer: Well yes, but I can not just write the letter, I would have to do some due diligence to make sure you were the first one to make the piece. That their piece did violate your copyright, and to make sure that the right person, or persons are being contacted, and if necessary named in the lawsuit.
Question: How much do you think this would cost in most cases?
Answer: It should cost somewhere from $100.00 to $250.00, if it is complicated.
Question: If they do not stop after receiving your letter what do I do then?
Answer: We would have to sit down and discuss what you would like to do next.
Question: It sounds as though the answer is that I most likely would not want to do anything more. Unless, of course, there would be proof that the other person is making a lot of money, and that I could sue for some of it.
Answer: Yes that would be the case; it is rarely worth the money just to stop someone from using your design, speaking in a business sense.
Question: If it is a large manufacturer, or a company overseas, I would guess that this even further complicates things?
Answer: If it is copied overseas, it may be difficult to stop them, but we can do something with the import laws. But the odds of stopping them from marketing are slim. A large company or corporation, again may have the advantage, because the deeper the pockets, the longer they can fight this kind of legal action.
I thanked him for his time, and paid him, of course.
As I was driving home I came up with Copyrite Now! I wanted it to be a quick, easy, and cheap way for everyone to protect their designs and art work. It is not a Copyright from the Copyright Office; you already have this inherent copyright when you created it. All I offer here is to give you the way to prove that you came up with this design, art work, or what ever, on this date. Just as important is that I am a "third party"; I have no interest in your design or the date in which you sent it to me.
For $2.99 you get the following:
1. You send me an E-mail with up to three (3) photos attached. This gives you proof that you had this design on this date. You have a record of it in your "Sent" file; I have a record of it on my computer.
2. I will send the E-Mail back to you with the photos attached. This gives you two more places to prove that you "own" this design on this date. One on your computer, and more importantly one in my "Sent" file.
3. This E-mail will also be forwarded to another computer at another office in another building and stored there.
4. Assurance that this information will not be lost. It will be stored on three computers, two of which are not in your control, but by "third parties".
5. Even more assurance that you will always be protected is that each month all "Copyrite Now" E-mails will be downloaded on to a CD. This CD will be sent to the Copyright Office and copyrighted.
6. A copy of this CD will also be place in a safety deposit box at the bank.
7. Therefore, the proof you will need to prove that you had this design on that date will always be secure and easy to obtain.
8. If the time comes that you need to prove that you had this design on that date, we will assist you. Provide us with the E-Mail of the person that has infringed on your design. At your request, we will send an E-Mail to that party, with the original dated E-Mail, showing the date that you created the design, and requesting that they cease to use it. We will also request that they respond back to you of their intentions.. Any E-Mail that we get from them will be forwarded to you. There is a small charge of $7.99 for this service.
The action you take after that is solely up to you. It would be time to go to an attorney, however, unless your design is being mass produced and a lot of profit being made from it; it most likely will not be worth your time or money.