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N Cal Attorney
N Cal Attorney, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
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Experience:  Since 1983
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Please explain this situation to me, legally. Many years

Customer Question

Please explain this situation to me, legally. Many years ago, when someone wrote something, the person put a copyright notice on the written work and registered the copyright with the US Copyright Office and received a document of ownership to prove ownership. Since, I think 1976, an author no longer needs to register a copyright for his or her written work and does not even need to display the author's copyright notice on the written work. My question is -- what if someone writes something but has not registered the copyright, what if someone else claims to have written the work, how can the real author of the work prove that he or she really owns the rights to that work? My understanding is that a magistrate or judge relies on written proof when deciding who wins a lawsuit.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  N Cal Attorney replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your question.

An author owns copyright from the moment a work is put into a fixed form. Registration has never been required, but registration allows an author to obtain more remedies than an author who failed to register a work. The copyright notice is not required on works published on and after March 1, 1989, see

http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ03.pdf

Not every case involves written evidence. Some authors mail themselves a copy of their work and do not open the envelope in case they ever need proof of authorship and they do not want to register with the Copyright Office. Other proof might be a typist who testifies that he or she typed the manuscript, or anyone who saw the author working on the writing or who saw the work in the possession of the author.

A document created on a computer usually has metadata in the computer file that will show the date it was created.

If you want to register copyright on a work you created, you can so at

http://copyright.gov/eco/

You can get a free consultation from some of the Ohio copyright attorneys listed by location here.

I hope this information is helpful.

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