It’s a new year and one of the things I have noticed as editor in chief at Free-eBooks.net is that some of our authors have submitted revised editions of their eBooks with copyright modifications which seem to include just an update to the year. This made me go look for information about copyright claims and how to establish and maintain them.
Copyrighting a work is reserving the rights to reproduce, distribute, and perform a literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work. From Encyclopedia Britannica:
“Copyright developed out of the same system as royal patent grants, by which certain authors and printers were given the exclusive right to publish books and other materials.”
“The Statute of Anne, passed in England in 1710, was a milestone in the history of copyright law. It recognized that authors should be the primary beneficiaries of copyright law and established the idea that such copyrights should have only limited duration (then set at 28 years), after which works would pass into the public domain. Similar laws were enacted in Denmark (1741), the United States (1790), and France (1793). During the 19th century most other countries established laws that protected the work of native authors.”
Subsequent legislation changed copyright specifics throughout the years changing things such as the duration of a copyright and the necessity of registration. International efforts included the Berne Convention of 1886 which unified countries in the copyright protection for authors within the signatory countries to the World Intellectual Property Organization (or WIPO) who passed the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty in 1996 which confers the same protection to all countries under the World Trade Organization umbrella.
Essentially, a copyright is placed on a work of art from a particular date onward for a period of time during which the copyright holder has exclusive rights to reproduce, modify, and distribute the work in whatever way they see fit. In the United States, that period is 70 years plus the age of the author at the time of publication. For anonymous works, that period is 95 years from first publication or 120 years from creation date. You do not need to register your copyright with any governing body, however doing so does provide you with certain advantages not the least of which is a public record of your copyright claim on the work in question.
From the US Copyright Basics leaflet:
“How Long Copyright Protection Endures
Works Originally Created on or after January 1, 1978
A work that was created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death. “
What all this boils down to is this: once you, as author, establish your initial copyright over the work, it remains in effect from that date until the date of your death, and for 70 years thereafter. Registering that copyright in an official capacity gives you advantages if you ever need to pursue legal recourse for a violation but is not required. And renewing that copyright when the year changes is not necessary unless you are conferring those rights onto some other party or changing the terms of your copyright.
For more on copyright information, see:
The US Copyright Office official website: http://www.copyright.gov/
The UK Copyright Service website: http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/
The Australian Copyright Council website: http://www.copyright.org.au/