© 2008 The Medical-Legal News
Q: I am writing a booklet for legal nurse consultants on defense exams. Can you tell me what rights I have as the author?
A: As the author of an original work, you own the copyright. As owner of the copyright, you are granted certain rights by law. It is illegal for anyone to violate those rights.
The rights include the right to:
• make copies and sell the copies;
• prepare derivative works;
• display and perform the work publically.
According to U.S. law, the copyright is the immediate property of the author when the original work is recorded in a fixed form, such as put into print or recorded. The copyright then continues throughout the lifetime of the author and for 70 years past his death. You may affix the copyright symbol (©) to your work or write (for example, with the word “copyright”) that the work is copyrighted. There are no special words to use.
Be aware that if the work is ordered or commissioned for use by another or prepared by an employee within the scope of employment, the work is often considered a “work for hire.” The copyright of a work for hire is owned by the employer or the person who ordered or commissioned the work.
You don’t have to register your work to own the copyright. However, registering your work is affordable and has advantages. For example, the facts of the copyright are a public record and you receive a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for damages and attorney’s fees in a successful litigation of copyright infringement.
If you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement, you will need to register your work. You can register your work through the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO) online system. Details are available on the internet at www.copyright.gov/eco/. The filing fee is $35. You can file through the mail or electronically. Electronic filing provides the fastest processing time, online tracking and payment by electronic means. You can even upload some works as electronic files.
The practice of sending yourself a copy of your work is often referred to as a “poor man’s copyright.” The idea was that the date on the postmark on the unopened envelope would prove that the author wrote the work before the postmarked date. There is no provision in the copyright laws for this practice and it is not a substitution for registering your work.
The copyright law started in the mid-15th century in England soon after the invention of the printing press. President George Washington signed the first copyright bill into law under the U.S. Constitution. The first book registered was The Philadelphia Spelling Book by John Barry. The law has been updated throughout the years to accommodate new media. If you are interested in the history and myths of the copyright laws go towww.copyright.gov/history.
As always, I am available to answer your questions. You can reach me by email email@example.com or by phone at (321) 633-4610. •