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There is a lot of misunderstanding about copyright protection, especially online. Copyright protection typically covers all intellectual property such as articles, stories, and artwork. General concepts or ideas cannot be copyrighted, and very short phrases, slogans, or names must be trademarked in order to be protected.
Under the Berne Convention, copyright protection of intellectual property is immediate, meaning that the creator does not actually need to register in order to protect artwork or writing, regardless of his or her nationality. Nor does the work need to be published in order to earn this protection. However, in order to sue for copyright infringement in many countries, including the United States, the work will need to be registered. Not filing therefore carries a risk, as it will be difficult to win a lawsuit if the other party files for copyright protection first, even if you are the true owner of the work.
In order to file for copyright protection in the United States, the owner of the work will need to fill out a form, provide a non-returnable copy of the work, and pay a fee. In the United States, this fee is $35 US Dollars (USD) if the individual is filing online, and $45 USD to file via mail. The cost of registering can be mitigated somewhat by registering unpublished works together in a "collection." For instance, a writer might register all of his or her unpublished works together once a year, as opposed to registering each one separately and paying the fee every time.
In general, someone who enjoys copyright protection in the United States will also be protected in other countries. Treaties and organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization have been formed in order to ensure protection of people’s intellectual property rights in other countries. All of the signors or members have agreed to recognize the rights of citizens from the other participating countries.
Also, people who are not citizens of the United States may still be protected by U.S. copyright law. For example, if a foreigner writes a short story but does not publish it, his or her rights are automatically protected within the United States. If the short story is published for the first time in the United States, U.S. copyright applies; but if the short story is published first in another country, that country’s copyright laws apply. In the latter case, if the country has signed treaties with other countries regarding intellectual property rights, the author’s rights will be recognized in all countries that have signed the treaty.
We need to remember that copyright protection is immediate before attempting to copy and paste photos, words, or any other piece of art into a presentation or website. I know I may be guilty of trying to copy a photo that did not appear to have an owner. There are websites which sell rights to photos and music.
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