THE GOOD NEWS

You are fully protected by copyright law from the moment you fix your work in tangible form (write the words on paper, type the words into a computer, etc.). In countries that have an official copyright registration process (many don’t), registration provides no additional copyright protection.

However, it does offer various legal benefits. This is the way our lawyer puts it:

Where available, official registration provides prima facie evidence of copyright ownership that can be used in court. In the US, registration is a pre-requisite for filing a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Copyright prior to publication is not necessary or recommended (registering an​ unpublished manuscript ​may make you a target for solicitation. Some vanity publishers and questionable literary agents contact writers who register the copyright for their books​ prior to publication)​.​

If a writer feels the need to file a copyright​, it should be done in the first three months of publication to receive​ the full benefit​ of the law in an infringement​ case. After that, a writer can still file a copyright up to five years after the publication date, although the range of damages one can claim are more limited.​

But the best way for writers to protect their work is to keep all draft copies, notes, emails, and research collected in the process of creation to prove the immense work that went into the creation of the intellectual property​. Someone who lays claim to a work they did not create can not produce such convincing evidence.

That being said, intellectual​ property​ theft has become increasingly rare since the advent of the BERNE CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF LITERARY AND ARTISTIC WORKS (1971) which states that in countries that are signatory to the Berne Convention (the USA, the UK, Europe, and many other countries), the creator owns copyright by law, automatically, as soon his/her work is fixed in tangible form. Per the Berne convention, copyright extends for the lifetime of the creator plus 50 years.

Specific copyright laws vary among the more than 90 countries that are signatory to Berne, and in many countries, ​the term is longer. In the USA and much of Europe, it’s the creator’s lifetime plus 70 years. Also in the USA, copyright applies to economic rights only, and the moral rights provisions enacted in other nations–which are intended to help protect the personality and reputation of the author–don’t exist.

THE BAD NEWS

If you intend to copyright your work, you need to beware. There are many websites that offer to take care of  © registration process for you, claiming that it is complicated and time-consuming,​ but they are misleading at best, malicious​ at worst. Some of these services offer a kind of faux registration which is actually just a time-stamping or date verification service. Such services, which provide neither a legal advantage nor additional protection, are a waste of money. Other © services are an outright scam providing nothing in return for your $$.

It is safer and cheaper​ to do it yourself​ online.

THE SOLUTION

A LIST OF SAFE LINKS: 

The RIGHT way to register your work for copyright:

Note: This is a partial list and includes only those countries in which WN authors reside. 

OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION CONCERNING COPYRIGHT

  • Copyright Aware: …from the BBC: this is a comprehensive resource on copyright for creators.
  • Copyright Basics from the Copyright Office / US Library of Congress, covers copyright law in the USA.
  • British Copyright Council is “a national consultative & advisory group representing organizations of copyright owners and others interested in copyright in the UK.” Includes helpful articles.
  • DMCA Takedown 101, is an article by J. Bailey, provides instructions on how to compose and send a takedown notice in the event of online infringement (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).