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How do I get my webcomic actually copyrighted? (USA)

 
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Marscaleb



Joined: 28 Aug 2012
Posts: 255

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:57 pm    Post subject: How do I get my webcomic actually copyrighted? (USA) Reply with quote

I understand that there are some basic legal rights that are automatically established without my doing anything. If someone tried to duplicate my work I have protection because I can prove I made it first.

But this isn't the same as having my comic actually copyrighted. I am curious, how would I go about doing that?
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wendyw
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Joined: 10 Jul 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When you talk about automatic legal rights that is copyright that you're talking about. It's entirely automatic. You can register the copyright with the US Copyright Office for a fee so that there's an official record of it and that can be useful if you ever have to take anybody to court, but yeah, every original creation you've ever created is already protected under copyright laws.
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Zoe Robinson
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Joined: 02 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was going to say what Wendy said, but she'd already said it so I'll just say this: there are people out there that say they can protect your copyright for a fee. They can't. Putting your work out there on the Internet is more than enough to protect your copyright, because it provides a clear time and date for the creation of the work.

In other words, stop fretting; you're already covered.
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Traegorn



Joined: 16 Feb 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your work is automatically copyrighted, and no matter what you can legally protect it - suing a violator for ACTUAL damages (money lost) and force violators to cease and desist.

That said, you need to REGISTER a copyright if you ever want to sue for PUNTITIVE damages (large sums to punish violators)

That's the cliffnotes
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Zoe Robinson
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Joined: 02 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Traegorn wrote:
Your work is automatically copyrighted, and no matter what you can legally protect it - suing a violator for ACTUAL damages (money lost) and force violators to cease and desist.

That said, you need to REGISTER a copyright if you ever want to sue for PUNTITIVE damages (large sums to punish violators)

That's the cliffnotes


Not entirely true. The Copyright Act all but bars punitive damages and while some judges view registration as allowing punitive damages to be awarded, it is not a certainty. See here for more info.
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Marscaleb



Joined: 28 Aug 2012
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2012 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What was going through my mind the most is that I have been just pasting a copyright date on my comic pages, but I never had formerly registered any copyrights.

I'm not exactly worried that someone is going to steal my work, but if, say, in a few years my comic is quite successful I might want it formerly registered. But if I wait until then, the dates I posted on all my strips will be wrong, won't it?
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ewomack
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Joined: 05 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The biggest question about copyright isn't whether you register your work or not or whether you can prove original authorship beyond a doubt, but whether or not you can afford to defend your copyright claims in court if it comes to that. Intellectual property cases, like most court cases, tend towards the expensive side. Though all of our work is technically "protected" under copyright, if we don't have the money to bring infringers to court to enforce these rights then this protection means very little in the end. Hopefully none of us ever have to actually worry about this at any point in the future. Putting any original work out for public consumption carries many risks, including that of being stolen. Most of us here probably agree that such risks remain worth it.
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Clint Wolf



Joined: 15 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 30, 2012 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The biggest issue with registering copyrights in the U.S. is that even the Copyright office doesn't seem to know how the hell to deal with webcomics, much less any lawyers you might talk to. Some people will tell you to register as a periodical. Some people will tell you to register as artwork.

The point I gave up was when the actual U.S. Government official I talked to insisted that to be protected I would have to separately file and pay for every single, separate page of the comic that we ever posted online, regardless of the fact we also have print issues. According to him there is legislation "in the works" to figure out how to classify serialized digital media, but knowing how fast Congress works, who knows when that'll happen.

In the meantime, even if he's wrong, the air of uncertainty is such that the only real reason to formally file copyright (better standing in court) is completely undercut. I'm not paying the money and wasting the time involved when there's every chance that if something ever did go before a judge, I'll just be informed I filed incorrectly and have to fall back on the default rights I enjoyed in the first place.
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TonyDiGerolamo



Joined: 10 Mar 2006
Posts: 361

PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are forms to fill out at the Library of Congress, but it's much simpler to put the copyright, date, your name and post it. Once another person sees that, it's copyrighted. Filing the paperwork is just a formality. My experiences with the Library of Congress aren't that great. Also, there's trademarking, which is more of a real protection, but that costs $300 and you supposed to file with every little thing you do (comics, shirts, books, etc.)
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UncleRobot



Joined: 30 Apr 2012
Posts: 29

PostPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2012 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

eco.copyright.gov is where you want to go if you want to do it up right.



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AndToBeLoved



Joined: 17 Mar 2011
Posts: 116

PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I used to be really paranoid about this kind of thing, but as others have stated, the most important thing is that you can prove authorship. It's not usually worth the time, money, and stress involved in copyrighting every single thing, especially for webcomics. Clint Wolf makes an excellent point in that the copyright office doesn't know how to handle these things.

It's probably more important that, if (IF) your comic is ever a huge success, you trademark the name. But even then, for indie and webcomics, I don't feel it's worth it. And taking a perpetrator to court is another huge hassle in and of itself that could cost you a lot more than its worth, even if you win. The truth is, if you're actually a good writer, and if someone steals your idea and gets away with it, you should have two dozen even better ideas already floating around in your head to replace that stolen one. It's harsh, and totally unfair if someone steals your idea, but hey, screw em! Do something even better! Hopefully it never comes to that, though. I've had work more or less stolen, in a manner of speaking, and it sucked and I was very angry about it, but now I just look back at it as a learning experience and since then I have come up with an uncountable list of even better ideas and concepts (wow, I hope that doesn't sound conceited...).

Anyways, life is too short to be worrying about someone stealing your idea.

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Zoe Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Never just replace a stolen idea, that's just giving up and letting the thief win. These days copyright is not expensive to defend. If the theif is in the US or their site is in the US, issue a DMCA (takes 30 minutes) and get their site taken down. If they are in Europe, issue a Small Claim (can usually do that online in 10 mins).
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Zoe Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also, as a side note. Remember that you can't copyright an idea. You copyright how ideas are implemented, but not ideas themselves.
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Casual Notice
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Joined: 18 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't count too heaviuly on DMCA Takedown requests to protect your IP. For one thing, DMCA takedowns have gotten a black eye in the industry due to misuse as a means of fraudulently undermining competitors (Google reported that more then 50% of the takedown requests they received had no valid content conflict).

The other issue is that DMCA is an end-user aimed law that does not punish or limit the most egregious copyright violators. DMCA is a piracy prevention measure and not a general protection of copyright. As such it is limited in its scope (I can only speak to the US law and not to its European counterpart(s)) to removal from the web of infringing material, end even that is for a short period while questions of ownership are resolved.

As ATBL suggested, actually protecting your property is more complicated. I have a friend who submitted (through an agent) a series concept, which was stolen from him by the network and production company to make an absolutely awful television series. He was able to show, in court, his original authorship, and significant points of similarity, including points of similarity in the first season bible and entire pages of script that had been lifted from his submission. However, his claim was denied, partially because the show was such a ridiculous failure that the court could not see any significant loss of income on his part (I think the judge was too used to thinking of LoI in terms of the millions that Hollywood considers a lot and not the thousands of dollars of compensation for use of his property that my friend deserved).

Basically, copyright enforcement is a risk/reward calculation you have to make for every case. Trademarks (which fall under patent, and not copyright, law) are a different animal. Your copyight is yours for the full term of the copyright and may be enforced at any time with no regard to common violation. Trademarks fall into the public domain if IP resolution is not sought vigorously and immediately (this is why Disney is so apparently dickish about the use of their characters).
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Zoe Robinson
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When they could lose the rights to exclusivity on big name characters, can you blame them for vigorously defending them?
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