So many people have unique creative ideas, but a lot of those ideas never come to fruition. Part of that is due to the fleeting nature of inspiration, and people simply throwing out ideas without any serious thought to trying to make more of them. But a number of people are held up from capitalizing on their ideas because they don't know how to and don't understand what rights they may or may not hold to any idea or work. Too many people fail to bring these terrific ideas to fruition, and those who do are often at a loss as to how to combat having their work misappropriated by others. Understanding the basics of intellectual property protection is the foundation for artists and creators to receive the credit and compensation they are owed.
One type of IP protection that touches on so many creative works is copyright. Copyright is the legal protection given to works that are recorded in a tangible medium — your drawings or songs or writings. Copyright can also apply to your software if you've created an app or program. To answer the titular question, you have the copyright protection of your work automatically as it is set in that medium, whether it be a blog or website page or mp3 file. But to say that there is no additional work required on the part of the creator is a bit misleading.
While you have copyright automatically upon making your work manifest, that protection doesn't do much should you need to take action to protect it. In order to file a lawsuit for infringement of your copyrighted work, that work needs to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Having your work registered with the provides a definitive public record that will be accepted in court should the matter go that far. While you might not be overly enthusiastic about the possibility of having to go to court, the threat of legal action can serve to keep at least some potential infringement at bay.
One common copyright misconception is the idea of the "poor man's copyright", which entails mailing a copy of your work to yourself to provide a sort of record of time and date associated with the work. While it would be great for IP protections to be that simple, there is no provision that allows for that kind of registration to be accepted as would registration with the government. As with most things in intellectual property law, it's best to be sure of what you're doing, and right the first time.
Taking a few minutes to review the basics of IP law can help to educate future decisions and alleviate potential headaches down the road. Creators can set to work with a roadmap to making sure that their work is going to be protected, and that they will be able to derive the benefits from it.
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