DISCLAIMER: Recent conversations with the Copyright Office have led me to change my stance regarding blogs and copyright registration. Please see this post for my updated views.
I finally decided to practice what I preach and I registered the copyrights in my blogs over the weekend. For those of you who don’t know, I have two blogs: this one and my personal blog The Undeniable Ruth. I post weekly on each one.
My work only exists on my websites so the first thing I had to do was create a document that compiled all of my posts for each blog. This blog wasn’t too bad since I’ve only had it since January. I’ve been publishing weekly on The Undeniable Ruth since January 2010, not to mention all the extra posts I did for Sponsor A Law Kid, so creating a master document for that took the better part of two days. That was a pain in the ass that I don’t want to repeat. Once I had these documents created, I saved them as PDFs.
The first time I used the U.S. Copyright Office website, it was kind of stressful. It isn’t always obvious what you’re supposed to do to create a profile and to apply to register your copyright. I had to read each screen at least twice to make sure I was filling everything out properly. You have to go through about eight screens to fill out the application, upload your document, and pay the fee ($35 for literary work). It was really weird that the site makes you pay the fee first and then upload your work.
You have the option to submit your work and payment online or to send it in. According to the site it currently takes about 2.5 months to process your application if you do it electronically and 6.5 months if you mail in your work.
Once I got through the copyright application process once, the second time through went much faster. If you’re looking to register your copyrights, I strongly recommend doing it the first time with a copyright attorney or someone who has gone through the process before. As an intellectual property attorney, I had the benefit of understanding all the verbiage on the application which made it easier to navigate.
This was the first of several copyright applications to come. Since my work is on my blogs, I have to re-register my work every three months to ensure that my new content is protected. You have copyright rights in your work the moment you create them, but you have to register your work if you want to sue someone for infringement if they steal your content. If you register your work within three months of publication or one month of learning of the infringement (whichever is first!), you’re eligible for attorneys’ fees and statutory damages which can go up to $150,000. If you don’t register within this time period, you’re only eligible for your actual damages, which in the world of blogging could be $0.00.
If you have a blog, I recommend registering your work every three months. Put a standing reminder to yourself on your calendar. Start a master document for your blog posts now so you don’t have the arduous task of compiling your work every time it’s time to re-register your work. If you don’t want to do this yourself, hire an attorney to do it for you. The time to protect your work is now. If wait until someone steals your work, the options you have left may not be worth pursuing.